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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Feeling Down in the Dumps

With the recent hurricane devastation in south Texas and financial industry crisis, we are all aware of the potential for depression in those whose lives have been affected. It makes sense that feelings of depression are logical after such major events.

Those of you who have experienced coping with the loss of someone you love, the loss of your job, the loss of health, or even the changes in where you live can relate to the hopelessness of those affected by Hurricane Ike. But when is the sadness you feel appropriate and when is it a significant clinical depression?

In any given year, it is expected that 1 out of 10 adults suffer from clinical depression. The symptoms of depression that require professional intervention include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood

  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex

  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions

  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping

  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain

  • Restlessness, irritability

  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.

  • In the extreme: thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts. Click here for a list of suicide facts.

Experiencing one of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you are clinically depressed. Rather, it's a combination of these symptoms that warrants professional attention.

A new study in the Archives of General Psychiatry suggests that cognitive therapy (or "talk therapy") may be as effective as antidepressant drugs in the initial treatment of moderate to severe depression. Cognitive therapy involves a person talking through what they think is causing their depression. The therapist then can give specific skills to help change the way they view the problem and then learn how to better manage it. Of course, you should never quit taking medication for depression without the guidance of your doctor or therapist.

Most people believe that there is little hope for depression even with proper treatment. Not true! It is estimated that 80% of people with depression improve with proper treatment. The real problem is that people are unwilling to get treatment in the first place. And people with depression can't just "snap out of it."

If you are just feeling "down in the dumps" the following things can boost your mood:

  • Take a walk outside. Sunshine actually increases the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that will trigger a more active you.

  • Break down large tasks into small ones and do what you can.

  • Set realistic goals about what you want to accomplish.

  • Volunteer for a cause. Shifting your focus on helping someone else can lift your mood. Some of my office staff recently volunteered for the Red Cross to help hurricane victims.

  • Be willing to seek treatment. The true barrier to successfully eliminating depression is to be willing to participate in counseling.

A good first step is to talk with your doctor, a psychologist and/or psychiatrist, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or a qualified leader where you worship. For more information, you can go to or

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