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When Depression is Mild

by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

At some time, nearly every person experiences feelings of depression—sadness, discouragement, the blues. These are common, normal feelings that come and go—mild depressions that can be seasonal or event-related.

Depression becomes an illness when symptoms intensify and persist over an extended period of time.

Depression can be treated; however, nearly two-thirds of depressed people don’t get appropriate treatment.

Even with all we know, some still believe depression is a personal fault or weakness, and that the person who is suffering could just “snap out of it” if he or she wanted to.

Like with other illnesses, denial that anything is wrong may be one reason help is not sought. Other times people don’t seek help because they don’t recognize the symptoms.

Following are some common characteristics of depression and some dos and don’ts if you or someone you care about is experiencing mild depression.

Some Symptoms of Depression

  • Persistent sad or “empty” feelings, feeling discouraged, blue or down.
  • Negative feelings —feeling guilty, unworthy. Self-criticism, self-blame.
  • Loss of interest in ordinary activities.
  • Decreased energy, feeling fatigued, restless, irritable or lethargic.
  • Increase of sleep or insomnia.
  • Loss of interest in sex.
  • Changes in appetite—eating more or less, gaining or losing weight.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions.

If symptoms persist and the following additional symptoms appear, then professional help is needed.

  • Excessive weeping or crying.
  • Thoughts of suicide or death.
  • Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, chronic pain, digestive disorders.

When Depression Is Mild,  What Should a Person Do?

Try to be with supportive, understanding people. Do those recreational activities that you have always liked. Participate in social activities or community gatherings. Exercise is helpful—go for walks, work in the yard, plant some flowers.

Also, break large tasks into smaller ones; set priorities. Only do what you can and check your expectations of yourself. Talk about how you’re feeling with friends, family and your therapist.

What Should a Person with Depression Not Do?

  • Don’t isolate or hide out.
  • Don’t set difficult goals or take on too much responsibility.
  • Don’t expect too much of yourself.
  • Don’t set yourself up for disappointment or failure.
  • Don’t make major life decisions — changing jobs, getting married or divorced—without first consulting with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Don’t expect to suddenly get over the depression. Most likely, feeling better will happen gradually.
  • Don’t accept negative thinking and feelings as refl ecting your true situation.

If you’re experiencing mild depression, keep hope. With time and treatment, if necessary, the symptoms will dissipate. You will come back to yourself.

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

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