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Feeling Depressed

Feeling depressed may include a lack of energy, sadness, and low self-esteem. It is normal to feel down from time to time, especially after disappointments. More severe feelings of depression are also natural after major upsets, such as the death of someone close. You should consult your doctor if depression is severe or if it persists for more than 2 weeks.

  • Do you have any of the following symptoms?

    • Lack of energy

      Did your depression develop after any of the following?

      • Bereavement
        • Possible cause Grief and depression are normal following the loss of someone close (see Loss and bereavement).

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor, who may provide support while you come to terms with your loss.

      • Divorce
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Job loss
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Other distressing life event
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • None of the above

        Do any of the following apply?

        • You have recently had a baby
          • Possible cause Major hormonal changes after childbirth sometimes lead to depression (see Depression after childbirth).

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • You have recently had a viral illness
          • Possible cause Viral illnesses may sometimes be followed by a period of mild depression.

            Self-help Follow a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep to rebuild your strength. If your depression continues longer than 2 weeks after the viral symptoms have gone, make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • You are recuperating from major surgery or a serious illness
          • Possible causes A serious accident, major surgical operation, or serious illness can be followed by depression.

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • None of the above

          Do you regularly drink more than the recommended limit of alcohol (see Safe alcohol limits)?

          • More than the limit
            • Possible cause Regularly drinking too much alcohol leads to depression in some people (see Alcohol dependence).

              Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor for advice about cutting down your alcohol intake.

          • Within the limit

            Have you been suffering from particular stress at home or at work?

            • Yes
              • Possible cause Stress is a common cause of depression.

                Self-help Try to reduce the impact of stress in your life (see Stress). Make an appointment to see your doctor if you feel unable to cope or if depression is interfering with your normal everyday activities.

            • No

              Are you currently taking any medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs?

              • Yes
                • Possible cause Your symptoms may be a side effect of the medication, complementary remedy, or recreational drug.

                  Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor. Continue to take prescribed medication unless advised to stop by your doctor but stop taking any other medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs.

              • No

                Are you male or female?

                • Male
                  • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your depression from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

                • Female

                  Do you feel depressed only in the days before your period is due?

                  • Yes
                    • Possible cause Your depression may be related to your monthly hormonal changes (see Premenstrual syndrome).

                      Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

                  • No
                    • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your depression from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

    • Difficulty sleeping

      Did your depression develop after any of the following?

      • Bereavement
        • Possible cause Grief and depression are normal following the loss of someone close (see Loss and bereavement).

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor, who may provide support while you come to terms with your loss.

      • Divorce
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Job loss
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Other distressing life event
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • None of the above

        Do any of the following apply?

        • You have recently had a baby
          • Possible cause Major hormonal changes after childbirth sometimes lead to depression (see Depression after childbirth).

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • You have recently had a viral illness
          • Possible cause Viral illnesses may sometimes be followed by a period of mild depression.

            Self-help Follow a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep to rebuild your strength. If your depression continues longer than 2 weeks after the viral symptoms have gone, make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • You are recuperating from major surgery or a serious illness
          • Possible causes A serious accident, major surgical operation, or serious illness can be followed by depression.

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • None of the above

          Do you regularly drink more than the recommended limit of alcohol (see Safe alcohol limits)?

          • More than the limit
            • Possible cause Regularly drinking too much alcohol leads to depression in some people (see Alcohol dependence).

              Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor for advice about cutting down your alcohol intake.

          • Within the limit

            Have you been suffering from particular stress at home or at work?

            • Yes
              • Possible cause Stress is a common cause of depression.

                Self-help Try to reduce the impact of stress in your life (see Stress). Make an appointment to see your doctor if you feel unable to cope or if depression is interfering with your normal everyday activities.

            • No

              Are you currently taking any medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs?

              • Yes
                • Possible cause Your symptoms may be a side effect of the medication, complementary remedy, or recreational drug.

                  Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor. Continue to take prescribed medication unless advised to stop by your doctor but stop taking any other medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs.

              • No

                Are you male or female?

                • Male
                  • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your depression from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

                • Female

                  Do you feel depressed only in the days before your period is due?

                  • Yes
                    • Possible cause Your depression may be related to your monthly hormonal changes (see Premenstrual syndrome).

                      Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

                  • No
                    • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your depression from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

    • Low self-esteem

      Did your depression develop after any of the following?

      • Bereavement
        • Possible cause Grief and depression are normal following the loss of someone close (see Loss and bereavement).

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor, who may provide support while you come to terms with your loss.

      • Divorce
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Job loss
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Other distressing life event
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • None of the above

        Do any of the following apply?

        • You have recently had a baby
          • Possible cause Major hormonal changes after childbirth sometimes lead to depression (see Depression after childbirth).

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • You have recently had a viral illness
          • Possible cause Viral illnesses may sometimes be followed by a period of mild depression.

            Self-help Follow a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep to rebuild your strength. If your depression continues longer than 2 weeks after the viral symptoms have gone, make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • You are recuperating from major surgery or a serious illness
          • Possible causes A serious accident, major surgical operation, or serious illness can be followed by depression.

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • None of the above

          Do you regularly drink more than the recommended limit of alcohol (see Safe alcohol limits)?

          • More than the limit
            • Possible cause Regularly drinking too much alcohol leads to depression in some people (see Alcohol dependence).

              Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor for advice about cutting down your alcohol intake.

          • Within the limit

            Have you been suffering from particular stress at home or at work?

            • Yes
              • Possible cause Stress is a common cause of depression.

                Self-help Try to reduce the impact of stress in your life (see Stress). Make an appointment to see your doctor if you feel unable to cope or if depression is interfering with your normal everyday activities.

            • No

              Are you currently taking any medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs?

              • Yes
                • Possible cause Your symptoms may be a side effect of the medication, complementary remedy, or recreational drug.

                  Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor. Continue to take prescribed medication unless advised to stop by your doctor but stop taking any other medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs.

              • No

                Are you male or female?

                • Male
                  • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your depression from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

                • Female

                  Do you feel depressed only in the days before your period is due?

                  • Yes
                    • Possible cause Your depression may be related to your monthly hormonal changes (see Premenstrual syndrome).

                      Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

                  • No
                    • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your depression from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

    • Inability to concentrate or to make decisions

      Did your depression develop after any of the following?

      • Bereavement
        • Possible cause Grief and depression are normal following the loss of someone close (see Loss and bereavement).

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor, who may provide support while you come to terms with your loss.

      • Divorce
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Job loss
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Other distressing life event
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • None of the above

        Do any of the following apply?

        • You have recently had a baby
          • Possible cause Major hormonal changes after childbirth sometimes lead to depression (see Depression after childbirth).

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • You have recently had a viral illness
          • Possible cause Viral illnesses may sometimes be followed by a period of mild depression.

            Self-help Follow a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep to rebuild your strength. If your depression continues longer than 2 weeks after the viral symptoms have gone, make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • You are recuperating from major surgery or a serious illness
          • Possible causes A serious accident, major surgical operation, or serious illness can be followed by depression.

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • None of the above

          Do you regularly drink more than the recommended limit of alcohol (see Safe alcohol limits)?

          • More than the limit
            • Possible cause Regularly drinking too much alcohol leads to depression in some people (see Alcohol dependence).

              Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor for advice about cutting down your alcohol intake.

          • Within the limit

            Have you been suffering from particular stress at home or at work?

            • Yes
              • Possible cause Stress is a common cause of depression.

                Self-help Try to reduce the impact of stress in your life (see Stress). Make an appointment to see your doctor if you feel unable to cope or if depression is interfering with your normal everyday activities.

            • No

              Are you currently taking any medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs?

              • Yes
                • Possible cause Your symptoms may be a side effect of the medication, complementary remedy, or recreational drug.

                  Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor. Continue to take prescribed medication unless advised to stop by your doctor but stop taking any other medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs.

              • No

                Are you male or female?

                • Male
                  • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your depression from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

                • Female

                  Do you feel depressed only in the days before your period is due?

                  • Yes
                    • Possible cause Your depression may be related to your monthly hormonal changes (see Premenstrual syndrome).

                      Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

                  • No
                    • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your depression from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

    • Lack of interest in sex

      Did your depression develop after any of the following?

      • Bereavement
        • Possible cause Grief and depression are normal following the loss of someone close (see Loss and bereavement).

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor, who may provide support while you come to terms with your loss.

      • Divorce
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Job loss
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Other distressing life event
        • Possible cause Some life events can be devastating and a period of depression is natural.

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • None of the above

        Do any of the following apply?

        • You have recently had a baby
          • Possible cause Major hormonal changes after childbirth sometimes lead to depression (see Depression after childbirth).

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • You have recently had a viral illness
          • Possible cause Viral illnesses may sometimes be followed by a period of mild depression.

            Self-help Follow a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep to rebuild your strength. If your depression continues longer than 2 weeks after the viral symptoms have gone, make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • You are recuperating from major surgery or a serious illness
          • Possible causes A serious accident, major surgical operation, or serious illness can be followed by depression.

            Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

        • None of the above

          Do you regularly drink more than the recommended limit of alcohol (see Safe alcohol limits)?

          • More than the limit
            • Possible cause Regularly drinking too much alcohol leads to depression in some people (see Alcohol dependence).

              Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor for advice about cutting down your alcohol intake.

          • Within the limit

            Have you been suffering from particular stress at home or at work?

            • Yes
              • Possible cause Stress is a common cause of depression.

                Self-help Try to reduce the impact of stress in your life (see Stress). Make an appointment to see your doctor if you feel unable to cope or if depression is interfering with your normal everyday activities.

            • No

              Are you currently taking any medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs?

              • Yes
                • Possible cause Your symptoms may be a side effect of the medication, complementary remedy, or recreational drug.

                  Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor. Continue to take prescribed medication unless advised to stop by your doctor but stop taking any other medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs.

              • No

                Are you male or female?

                • Male
                  • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your depression from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

                • Female

                  Do you feel depressed only in the days before your period is due?

                  • Yes
                    • Possible cause Your depression may be related to your monthly hormonal changes (see Premenstrual syndrome).

                      Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

                  • No
                    • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your depression from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

    • None of the above
      • Possible cause You are unlikely to be suffering from serious depression. Your low spirits are probably the result of a temporary stress or disappointment.

        Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor if your feelings of depression last for more than 2 weeks, if your depression gets worse, or if you develop other symptoms.

Warning

Having suicidal thoughts

Anyone who considers suicide is in need of urgent medical help. If you cannot persuade the person to contact a doctor, try to encourage him or her to seek other professional help or to call a suicide prevention hotline such as the Samaritans, who counsel people in despair and are available day and night.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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