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Separating Depression From Being Blue

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
ANNOUNCER: Depression is a serious disorder, and there is help. But how do you tell if you really suffer from depression?

JOSEPH FRIEDMAN, MD: An important thing for people to remember is that everybody gets depressed now and again.

ANNOUNCER: Feeling down, or losing interest in things you once enjoyed is a key sign of depression. If this persists for at least two weeks, you should see a doctor. But there are other symptoms that need to be present before a diagnosis is made.

JOSEPH FRIEDMAN, MD: These include things like changes in sleep pattern, typically having insomnia; changes in appetite, with a significant weight loss; changes in somebody's ability to concentrate, you lose your ability to concentrate; changes in your motor activity, meaning most people who have depression are typically slowed down, feel this way, and people notice that they're slowed down.

ANNOUNCER: A doctor will also need to rule out other causes, such as diseases and drugs or medications that may be responsible for what is known as secondary depression.

JOSEPH FRIEDMAN, MD: There could be medical conditions which present as depression, and physicians need to be aware of this and need to investigate possible things, such as alteration in somebody's thyroid function, such as somebody taking drugs.

One of the other parts of the interview would be to ask about illicit drug use and alcohol use, to look for signs for any other neurologic conditions which may be producing depression.

ANNOUNCER: Treating these conditions can often take care of the depression. But if you are diagnosed with depression, it is important to know which type.

JOSEPH FRIEDMAN, MD: There is what we call unipolar depression, which is this sort of state in which somebody has a depressed mood, maybe comes out of it, maybe it persists. But when they come back to normal, they sort of stay at a regular state of emotion, sometimes up, sometimes down. People who have what's called bipolar depression, they will experience going the opposite way, having an abnormally elevated mood. And that's why we call it bipolar, because you go from the pole of being very depressed in mood to the pole of being euphoric, sometimes irritable.

ANNOUNCER: Medications and getting help from a professional therapist are often effective. However, bipolar disease may require different forms of therapy.

JOSEPH FRIEDMAN, MD: People with depression typically can be maintained, as far as medication goes, on a single medication. And that medication is typically the antidepressants. People with bipolar disorder who experience those periods of high in terms of their mood along with the other symptoms I mentioned earlier require a type of treatment that's referred to as a mood stabilizer. These people cannot be treated only with an antidepressant, because in fact that may actually produce those period of elevated mood or not allow them to come back to normal. And these types of mood stabilizer treatments are things such as lithium and some of the anticonvulsants that are used, such as valproic acid or carbamazepine.

ANNOUNCER: By finding the true causes of your depression, you can ensure that you are on the right track to feeling better.

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