The National Institute of Mental Health characterizes depression in this way: It’s “common but serious.” That’s a good way to describe it. Certainly, depression impacts a good many Americans, but just because it’s an everyday occurrence that hardly means that it should be taken lightly. Depression interferes not just with mood but with the ability to deal with each day’s responsibilities and its challenges. Depression can have significant ramifications, yet it can also be treated, with long-lasting recovery more than attainable.
Depression is also a serious issue within the eating disorder community, as many who struggle with eating disorders also struggle with depression as a co-occurring condition. Since National Depression Screening Day is in October, we’re seizing this chance to share some quick insights about what depression is, how it relates to eating disorders, and what can be done to detect it.
First of all, understand that depression doesn’t always take the same form. In fact, clinicians recognize many different types of clinical depression, including:
- Persistent depressive disorder, a mood disorder that lasts for at least a couple of years and may be accompanied by severe depressive episodes.
- Perinatal depression, experienced by women after giving birth.
- Psychotic depression, where the symptoms of severe depression are mixed with the symptoms of psychosis.
- Seasonal affective disorder, which usually rears its head when it’s winter and sunlight is diminished.
- Bipolar disorder, where depressive and manic episodes alternate.
The important thing to understand about depression is that it is much more than just feeling blue every now and again; depression is pervasive, and it impedes your ability to handle daily tasks and obligations. It is a true mental illness, and must be addressed with the right kind of clinical care.
There are some early warning signs that serve as red flags, alerting you that you or your loved one may have a form of depression. Some of these red flags include:
- A persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Persistent feelings of pessimism
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Loss of interest in hobbies, passions, activities, etc.
- Lack of energy
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Thoughts of suicide or death
There can be physical manifestations of depression, too—including aches and pains, digestive problems, and more.
Depression and Eating Disorders
It is not uncommon for eating disorders to present with co-occurring mental health disorders—and that includes depression. The question is why—and the answer is complicated.
In some cases, depression and the eating disorder may stem from the same underlying cause—an abnormality with the brain topography or brain chemistry, for example. In other cases, the cause and effect relationship may be more direct, perhaps with an eating disorder emerging as a way to exert control when depression seems to rob you of it.
The important thing to remember is that, cause and effect aside, the proper medical intervention can lead to lifelong recovery for both eating disorders and co-occurring conditions.
Something we recommend for everyone is to get a depression screening, to find out whether this is something you need to seek treatment for. The screening is as simple as answering a few questions; it can be done at any doctor’s office, and we even have a link to help you start the process here.
A screening can help you to start early intervention—and in doing so, it could be life-saving. Take a moment of your day to find a screening, and encourage your loved ones to do the same.[cta] Get a mental health screening today! [/cta]