Life changes, such as the birth of a baby, divorce, death of a loved one, or loss of a job can and do leave people feeling depressed. So can worrying about financial problems or illness. And sometimes you may feel empty and depressed for no apparent reason. Some depression is normal and is a part of almost every person’s life. Depression can, however, be a side effect of certain medicines, illnesses, alcoholism, or be a disease in and of itself. Even the lack of natural, unfiltered sunlight between late fall and spring can lead to a type of depression in some sensitive people. This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Depression as a medical disorder affects your thoughts, feelings, physical health and behaviors.

Whatever the cause, depression can be treated. Treatment includes medicines, psychotherapy, and other therapies that are specific to the cause of the depression, such as exposure to bright lights (similar to sunlight) for depression that results from SAD.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness.
  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, guilt, and worthlessness.
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities, including sex.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of energy or enthusiasm.
  • Difficulty in concentrating or making decisions.
  • Ongoing physical symptoms, such as headaches or digestive disorders, that don’t respond to treatment.
  • Crying, tearfulness.
  • Poor appetite with weight loss, or overeating and weight gain.

Self-Care Tips

To overcome mild, hard-to-explain depression, try these approaches:

  • Substitute a positive thought for every negative thought that pops into your head.
  • Associate with congenial people, not negative people. They’ll lift your morale.
  • To focus your attention away from yourself, do something to help someone else.
  • Get some physical exercise every day, even if it’s just taking the dog for a walk. If you can do something more exhilarating, like biking, playing tennis, or chopping firewood, that’s even better.
  • Do something different. Walk or drive to someplace new, or try a new restaurant.
  • Challenge yourself with a new project. It doesn’t have to be difficult, but it should be enjoyable. Do something that you enjoy and allows you to express yourself. Examples are writing, painting, etc.
  • Do something that will make you relax. Listen to soft music, read a good book, take a warm bath or shower, do relaxation exercises.
  • Talk to a friend, relative or co-worker or anyone who will allow you to vent the tensions and frustrations that you are experiencing.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol and the use of drugs can cause or worsen depression.

Questions to Ask

Have you attempted suicide? Do you have recurrent thoughts of suicide or death? Are you planning ways to commit suicide?

Yes: Seek Emergency Care


Have you had a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks? Or, have you been in a depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day and had any of the following, for at least 2 weeks?

  • Feeling slowed down or restless and unable to sit still
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Changes in appetite, or weight loss or gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Problems concentrating, thinking, remembering, or making decisions
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or feeling tired all of the time
  • Headaches
  • Other aches and pains
  • Digestive problems
  • Sexual problems
  • Feeling pessimistic or hopeless
  • Being anxious or worried

Yes: See Doctor


Has depression interfered with daily activities for more than three weeks? Have you withdrawn from normal activities during this time?
Yes: Call Doctor


Has the depression appeared after taking over-the-counter or prescription medicine?
Yes: Call Doctor


Is the depression associated with dark, cloudy weather, or winter months, and does it lift when spring comes?
Yes: Call Doctor


Provide Self-Care

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021