Don't Shy Away From Depression Discussion

Depression isn’t normally talked about much in a doctor’s office, but it should be. An estimated 14.8 million Americans – or 6.7 percent of the population – suffer from major depressive disorders. While more women are diagnosed with depression, it’s a problem many men deal with, too. Depression doesn’t just affect adults; 1 in 33 children and 1 in 8 teens have clinical depression. Many people don’t want to talk about depression since they think feeling sad is something to be embarrassed about. It’s not. It’s also something that shouldn’t be ignored.

Everyone feels down or sad from time-to-time depending on life events. Depression is diagnosed when patients have symptoms for a long period of time. Common depression symptoms include difficulty making decisions and concentrating; fatigue; feelings of guilt and worthlessness; insomnia; irritability; loss of interest in activities that used to bring enjoyment; aches and pains; decreased or increased appetite; persistent feelings of sadness and anxiety; and thoughts of suicide.

Depression is more than a mental health issue; it also affects your physical health. For example, people who are depressed may have trouble sleeping or may use alcohol, drugs or food in attempts to feel better. Depressed people are also four times more likely to have a heart attack than those without a history of the illness. It’s also the cause behind two-thirds of all U.S. suicides.

More medical providers are screening patients for depression, which is a great thing. Just as they look at patients’ blood pressure or cholesterol numbers, doctors are looking at a patient’s mental state. They’re realizing the close connection between physical and emotional health. Depression screens are relatively simple and it just requires asking a few basic questions. We, of course, hope patients are honest when giving their answers. Medical providers can also pick up possible signs of depression when patients discuss their sleeping habits, stress levels or other health concerns.

Depression is treatable. According to the National Institute of Health, up to 80 percent of people treated for depression show improvement within four to six weeks of beginning treatment, whether that’s medication, psychotherapy, attending a support group or a combination of those options.

If you suspect that you or a loved one suffers from depression, please talk with your medical provider. He or she can get you started on the road to feeling better. Depression is a real medical problem you and your medical provider can address together.

Scott Schuldes is a certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at