Depression: Noticing the Signs & Symptoms

May 17, 2011

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Trouble sleeping is often present, perhaps increased headaches or maybe a loss of appetite. Food may not be appealing and the only way to describe the feeling is blah. Sad may not be one of the symptoms, but it may be serious enough you may not be able to get out of bed.

Many may believe a person of this description may be stressed out. The problem could be stress related, but it could also very likely be depression. Usually we think of depression as feeling the blues and can miss the physical symptoms which accompany a very common illness.

Depression is quite commonly defined as feeling sad, unhappy or miserable. Most of us have felt this way at one time or another for short periods of time. True depression is a mood disorder in which these feelings of loss, frustration and sadness interfere with our everyday lives for an extended period of time. The exact cause of depression is still a mystery to researchers, although it is believed to be related to chemical imbalances in our brains. Depression is believed to be triggered by traumatic events or even heredity. Depression is found in school aged children right to the later stages of life.

The hallmark symptoms of depression, chronic sadness and a lack of interest in activities which used to bring pleasure are most common. However; we must realize some of us may have depression and not feel the sadness. Studies show up to 69% of people who meet the diagnostic criteria for depression denied having any psychological symptoms. Although people may actually be depressed, they think it is just from being overworked, fatigued or stressed out.

However; physical symptoms need to be identified so depression does not go untreated. Some physical common physical symptoms include headache, stiff neck, backache, fatigue and changes in sleep. Bowel problems and appetite loss are also primary complaints in depression. Pain tolerance can be decreased and you may find yourself getting sick more often, because it decreases the effectiveness of your immune system.

Depression treatment aims to achieve remission of depressive symptoms, restore optimal functioning and prevent reoccurrence. Treatment often consists of therapy, medication or a combination of the two.

Medications called antidepressants can be quite effective. Although traditional antidepressants had high incidences of side effects, there are many effective and safe treatment options today. They are usually started at a low dose and increased over time to reach the optimal dose with minimal side effects. It may take up to six weeks to find the optimal medication dose for some patients and sometime the medication is switched for another. However; most patients notice effectiveness and a relief in symptoms within two to four weeks once at optimal dose. Anti-depressants should be taken consistently at the same time every day. People trying herbal medications to treat depression must be extremely cautious if also starting prescription medications because drug interactions can be very serious. Antidepressant medications should always be taken, even if you are feeling better. They should also never be stopped without the advice of your doctor or pharmacist.

If depression goes untreated it can lead to many other long term health problems. Therefore it is important to identify depressed patients quickly and create a treatment plan. If you are looking for valuable information on depression and want to search online, start at If you are on a treatment for depression your pharmacist can explain your medications and provide you with other resources for information.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

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