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More than just feeling down: symptoms and treatment of clinical depression

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It’s not unusual to feel sad, lonely or unmotivated at times, especially after a loss or during a difficult time. However, when feelings of sadness become overwhelming and persist over a long period of time, it may be time to speak with your clinician about clinical depression. Many people use the word “depressed” to describe a sad mood, but depression is actually a serious medical condition with both physical and mental symptoms that prevents sufferers from enjoying a normal life. It’s also more common than you may think: up to one in four adults in America suffer from depression. Having depression does not mean you’re weak, crazy or weird. Too many—approximately half the people who suffer from symptoms of depression—do not seek diagnosis or treatment. In these untreated cases, clinical depression may worsen or lead to suicide.

Symptoms of clinical depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include:
• Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety or emptiness
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details/or and making decisions
• Fatigue and decreased energy
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness or hopelessness
• Changes in your sleep pattern including: insomnia, excessive sleeping or early-morning wakefulness
• Irritability
• Restlessness
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
• Overeating or appetite loss
• Persistent or worsening of aches or pains
• Digestive problems that resist treatment methods

Any one of these symptoms would make it difficult to function normally, and combined they can be overwhelming and lead to thoughts—or attempts—of suicide. Continue Reading »

Signs and symptoms of menopause

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Menopause can be an uncomfortable time, and for some an uncomfortable topic, but this normal, natural process is just one more phase of women’s lives. While it does mean the end of fertility, it certainly does not mean the end of an active, healthy lifestyle as a woman. Signs, which are mainly related to lowered levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, can be both physical and mental.

Menopause begins 12 months after a woman’s final menstrual period, which typically happens during a woman’s 40s or 50s. However, women can begin experiencing signs of menopause while still menstruating; this is called perimenopause and occurs in the months or years before menstruation ends. Signs include:

Irregular periods. Leading up to the end of menstruation, most women do not have a period on a regular monthly schedule, and the periods they do have may be heavier or lighter than usual, with occasional spotting. Since pregnancy is still possible during perimenopause, it is important to test for pregnancy if you are unsure if you’re transitioning into menopause. A missed period without pregnancy may be an indicator of perimenopause, but can also occur with physical or emotional stress, thyroid dysfunction, etc.
Vaginal dryness and more urinary tract infections (UTIs). Signs of vaginal dryness include stinging or burning, itching around the vulva and pain or light bleeding during sexual activity. It can occur at any age, but in perimenopause it is related to the lowered levels of estrogen and progesterone that signal menopause. This dryness can be soothed with a water-based lubricant or physician-approved vaginal moisturizer. Decreased estrogen and progesterone also account for more instances of UTIs due to a lack of hormonal influence on the urethral lining and may be characterized by a persistent urge to urinate or a burning sensation when urinating. Continue Reading »

5 ways winter affects your health

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Winter—especially in areas like the Midwest—can seem like the longest season of all. Aside from the stress of hearing snowbunnies and sun lovers debate the merits and setbacks of the snow and icy season, there are a few winter health issues to be wary of as well.

1. The winter blues
Do you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? SAD is a type of depressive disorder that is brought on by winter’s shorter days—with early sunsets and late sunrises, the lack of natural sunlight causes some to experience increased sleepiness, increased appetite, a heavy sensation in the limbs, loss of interest, a sense of hopelessness and social withdrawal. The endorphins gained from exercise can be helpful with SAD symptoms, as can light therapy, which uses a special lamp to make up for missing natural sunlight. Make sure to speak with your provider if you experience these symptoms.

2. Winter dry eye
Between the cold, dry air and the dryness from indoor heating (especially space heaters), winter can often be a time of burning, itching eyes. These symptoms, along with a feeling of grittiness, indicate that your eyes are not producing enough tears to keep them comfortably moist. Dry eyes can be relieved with artificial tears, using a cool-mist humidifier and eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such fish and flax seed. In severe cases, a procedure that closes the ducts that drain tears from the surface of the eyes may be needed.

3. Dry skin
In addition to dry eyes, winter’s cold air and low humidity can also cause severely dry and cracked skin. A cool-mist humidifier is also helpful in this situation, as is taking shorter showers and skipping baths, which tend to exacerbate dry skin. A good moisturizer is key during cold months, and don’t skimp on places like elbows and feet, which are especially prone to dryness and painful, cracked skin. Use a moisturizer with SPF—even if the sun isn’t out long during winter months, its rays can still cause damage. Continue Reading »

Facts about depression

depressionEveryone has a bad day or a case of the blues once in a while, but when “the blues” result in experiencing little or no joy in your daily life, it may be an indication of something more serious. Chronic sadness or depression is something that lingers for quite some time and is difficult to shake off if untreated.

Here are some facts about depression that you may not know:

  • Depression affects more than 350 million people worldwide
  • Women suffer from depression twice as often as men
  • Many people suffer with depression but do not seek help
  • Depression is treatable Continue Reading »

National Depression Screening Day

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Oct. 10 is National Depression Screening Day, a day to help call attention to screening opportunities for people with depression and anxiety disorders. Affinity Health System is dedicated to helping raise awareness about depression and other mood disorders and has joined forces with community partners in the Fox Valley to speak out.

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects more than 350 million people worldwide. People with depression may not feel comfortable talking with family, friends or colleagues about how they feel and often hide it from those around them. They may believe they just need to “toughen up” and that depression will go away by itself, but what they really need is to get help or seek treatment. Continue Reading »

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