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It's a fact of life that sometimes you get down. For many people, this feeling passes with time. For others, it's a constant condition. When your behaviour changes because of this feeling, it becomes clinical depression.
Depression is not just feeling bad. That's a state of mind, but while it can be a symptom of depression, just feeling bad doesn't mean you are clinically depressed. Depression occurs when this sadness lasts for an extended period of time. It's also accompanied by abnormal behaviours - obsessive eating or starving one's self, inability to sleep or sleeping too much.
Loss of interest in sex is often a sign of depression. Disinterest in friends, family, career and life in general are also hallmarks of depression. Depression can also be accompanied by obsessive/compulsive behaviours - counting, constant cleaning, excessive ordering and neatness.

Here is a checklist of clinical depression symptoms - if you find many of these apply to you, consider seeking help.

Depressed Mood: You are sad, grumpy or irritable most or all of the time.

Loss of Interest: You are not interested in things you used to enjoy; this includes hobbies, sex and relationships.

Diminished Ability to Concentrate: You find yourself easily distracted, or have trouble remembering things. It may be hard for you to focus on tasks at work.

Recurrent Thoughts of Death: This is the most serious symptom of depression. The despair can range from feeling as if others would be better off if you were dead to actually making plans for suicide.

Sleeping Difficulties: Insomnia is a common symptom of depression. There are several forms of insomnia; Early Insomnia, when you cannot fall asleep, Middle Insomnia, when you awake several times during the night, or only sleep lightly and Late Insomnia when you awake too early and cannot go back to sleep. Another form of sleeping difficulties occurs with hypersomnia - where you feel sleepy/drowsy all the time, despite getting enough sleep.

Like most clinical diagnoses, depression isn't the same in everyone, but if you have several of the above symptoms, you may be clinically depressed. It's a good idea to be examined and diagnosed by a psychiatrist or your doctor, rather than just asking your doctor for a prescription. Often, the symptoms of depression can dictate which medications are appropriate.

Depression is prevalent in the gay community, usually in the early pre and post-coming out years. But often the end of a relationship, or another big change in life can trigger depression. Beyond therapy, there are very effective medications to treat the physical condition of depression. Treatment is not an exact science, and much to the dismay of both doctors and patients, there is a trial period of `mix and match' between medication and patient. But when the "fit" is good, the results can be dramatic.

Why is medication effective when therapy alone isn't? Current thinking about depression is that it's a chemical condition in your brain. For whatever reason, genetic or environmental, your brain develops an imbalance of certain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, which do the business of the brain. They exist in a delicate balance, transmitting messages between nerve cells across junctions called synapses. Two neurotransmitters relevant to depression are serotonin and norepinephrine. They exist in a balance, but when serotonin levels drop below normal, things begin to change. Sleep becomes difficult, or one sleeps too deeply. Appetite can change; meaning a person overeats or doesn't eat enough. Anxiety often increases, and thoughts can become obsessive or muddled. Antidepressants work to restore the natural balance of these neurochemicals. After a period of adjustment, many patients find the fog lifts and their feelings and behaviours return to a more normal, predictable pattern.

Antidepressant Medications

 

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