There are days you wonder whether it’s even worth getting out of bed in the morning. You slog through the day as if everything is a routine, struggling to smile when a friend or co-worker passes by. The things you usually enjoy seem dull and boring, and when you have free time, you find yourself sitting and staring off into space. In the evening, you can’t wait to get back into bed and escape into the darkness and dreams.

We all have days like that. It’s perfectly normal, and there can be many causes. Maybe we’ve had some bad news about a family member, or we’re facing struggles in a relationship. Could be that our job is wearing us down. Perhaps our physical health has taken a dip and our energy is lagging. Whatever the reason, life just doesn’t seem as enjoyable as it did a month or a year ago.

Feelings of sadness usually have clear causes and they’re most often temporary. When those feelings persist over a longer period of time and the cause isn’t as obvious, we may be depressed. Again, that isn’t unusual. It’s been estimated that 17 million Americans suffer from depression during any given year, and roughly 9 percent of people report that they’re depressed at any given time. As we’ve made our way through the pandemic, depression appears to be even more common.

Depression isn’t a flaw in someone’s personality. It’s a medical condition that can be triggered by physical factors, such as a chemical imbalance in the body, and as a response to life events. Symptoms of depression include:

  • difficulty with making decisions and concentrating
  • loss of interest in pleasurable activities such as sex
  • overwhelming fatigue
  • major changes in eating habits
  • odd headaches or digestive problems that don’t get better
  • constantly feeling sad, empty, or hopeless
  • difficulty sleeping or sleeping far more than normal
  • irritability and feelings of worthlessness and helplessness
  • thoughts about suicide or past attempts.

It’s important to take depression seriously. Studies have shown that people suffering from major depressions are nearly 20 times more likely to die by suicide than average people. In fact, half of all people who have taken their lives had told someone else they were depressed.

Well-meaning spouses, parents, and friends may try to help people who are depressed by urging them to cheer up or by pointing to the good things in their lives, but most don’t realize that it’s difficult, if not impossible, for someone who’s deeply depressed to change his or her mood. The good news is the vast majority of people who seek treatment report that their symptoms improve. That’s why it’s so important to ensure people who are suffering from depression get the help they need.

If you recognize those symptoms in yourself or someone you know, it’s time to get help. People who feel depressed can contact their doctors or mental health professionals like the team at Care to Change. Clinical depression must be diagnosed by a professional, and then that professional can develop a treatment plan that works. If you’d like to sit down with one of our professionals or talk with us about finding help for someone you know, you can contact us here.

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately. If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) or text to 741-741, and you’ll be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor.

Bill Overpeck is one of Care to Change’s professional counselors who specializes in depression.