What to do when depression strikes
Friends, coworkers and neighbors should recognize the warning signs of depression and be aware of where to recommend seeking help.

BAUMHOLDER, Germany - Had a loss of interest in things you used to enjoy'

You may be depressed. Guilt, grief and separation from loved ones can cause depression during or following redeployment.

"Depression is not just 'feeling blue' or 'down in the dumps.' It is more than being sad or feeling grief after a loss," said Theresa M. Martinez, Employee Assistance Program coordinator at the Baumholder Army Substance Abuse Program. "It is a medical disorder that day after day affects your thoughts, feelings, physical health and behaviors."

According to "After the War Zone, A Practical Guide for Returning Troops and their Families" by Drs. Laurie B. Slone and Matthew J. Friedman, if you notice you (or someone you know) seem to be feeling down most of the time or are less interested in things you used to enjoy, this may be a warning sign of depression. Also be on the lookout for the following symptoms: crying with no explanation, inability to derive pleasure from things that used to be enjoyable, low energy, constantly tired, sleep problems, guilt, decreased intellectual ability or capacity to remember things, weight loss or weight gain, slow thoughts and/or actions.

Depression is treatable with medications and/or therapy, though research shows that a combination of both usually works best.

"In addition to psychotherapy and medication there are some simple things that will help speed recovery from depression. The more of these you can make yourself do, the faster you are likely to feel better. Do not remain in bed for more than eight hours a day because over-sleeping has been shown to increase depressed feelings.

"Get outside for at least half an hour between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Bright light has been shown to have an antidepressant effect. Going outside, even on a moderately overcast day, helps. Walk briskly or get some exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. Taking a walk out of doors between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. takes care of both your need for bright light and your need for exercise," said Martinez.

According to "After the War Zone" substance abuse can make depression worse. It can be easy to overuse or misuse alcohol, tobacco, street drugs or prescribed medications to deal with common post-deployment responses to war zone stress. You may find that you're drinking more or drinking to stop thinking or feeling.

Or you may use alcohol to slow down or to sleep. It's tricky because at first the alcohol will seem to reduce some of these common reactions to trauma, especially by blotting out disturbing feelings. But in the long run alcohol use can easily get out of hand and be extremely harmful.

Drinking reduces your ability to maintain close relationships and makes others feel you don't care. At first it may seem to relax you, but it will begin to increase your anxiety, feelings of depression and mood swings.

"Depression can be caused by many factors including family history and genetics, other general medical illnesses, certain medications, drugs or alcohol and/or other psychiatric conditions," said Martinez.

The Baumholder Employee Assistance Program offers a brochure with more information about depression. Some life conditions such as extreme stress or grief may bring on depression or prevent full recovery of someone suffering from depression. In some people depression occurs even when life is going well.

Depression is a common illness that can affect anyone. No one is immune to depression. Since depression often runs in families, some people are more susceptible to depression than others.

About one of every 20 Americans (over 11 million people) suffer from depression each year. Depression affects about twice as many women as men. There are warning signs of depression and it may be helpful to recognize them.

Treatment of depression can be very effective especially if the person gets help at an early stage. A drawback in treating depression is that people suffering often lack the motivation to seek treatment until the illness is well developed.

"Totally abstain from the use of alcohol and recreational drugs. Alcohol and street drugs both induce depression and prevent antidepressants from working effectively," said Martinez.

If you have had symptoms of depression for at least two weeks you may have a depressive disorder.

Reach out in your community to get help. Call Mental Health at mil 485-7411, Army Community Service's Military Life Consultants at mil 485-8188, the Health Clinic's Central Appointments at mil 485-8080 or the Employee Assistance Program at mil 485-7388/1710.

Page last updated Wed May 6th, 2009 at 06:48