Feeling a Little Blue?

Have you ever felt down for a few days, or more? Chances are your answer is yes. All of us go through ups and downs in our lives – it’s part of the human experience, and it’s normal. Most of the time we are able to bounce back without really doing anything. But sometimes feeling “down” can turn into depression, which is more serious. It’s useful to know a little about depression so you can recognize it in yourself or your loved ones and seek help early.

Depression is a mental state in which one feels either a depressed mood or loss of interest and pleasure in life. It can be triggered by a life event, or it can be random. To meet the strict definition, one feels this way for at least 2 weeks straight. Depression usually comes with some or all of these other symptoms:

• Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping way too much, or not being able to fall asleep)

• Changes in appetite or weight

• Low energy

• Difficulty concentrating

• Feeling worthless or guilty

• Feeling like you are physically moving slower or faster than normal

• Thinking about death or suicide

One of the trickiest things about depression is that it can be really hard to identify – even for the person experiencing it! Sometimes depression can manifest as other types of complaints (like abdominal pain), and it’s only after digging further that one realizes that the abdominal pain is psychosomatic – in other words, caused by psychic distress rather than a physical problem. This is something that a doctor would be able to help you identify.

While it may be tempting to just ride these symptoms out – it’s easy to talk yourself out of seeking professional help – it’s probably better for your long-term health to get treatment early. Living with depression decreases your quality of life and is even associated with higher risk of other health conditions! The good news is that depression is usually easily treated, and treatment is more successful if it’s started early. There are many different types of treatment options, including the following:

• Talk therapy (or psychotherapy) with a trained professional like a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health therapist. For someone initially diagnosed with depression, psychotherapy has been shown to be equally effective compared to medications (and it comes without side effects!). Some people are worried about the cost of psychotherapy, but there are usually some options available for people who have insurance (or who might qualify for financial assistance). This is something you could discuss with a doctor or social worker. Today, there are online therapists you can tap into in order to get a wider variety of providers and more convenient treatment.

• Medications: There are many different types of antidepressants that have been used and proven safe for decades. One doesn’t have to be on these medications for a long time – the duration of treatment can be quite short, depending on how you respond.

• Other “adjunctive” treatments: There are many other treatments along with talk therapy and/or medications that can help, such as exercise, meditation, and doing other things you enjoy to enhance your wellness.

The bottom line: Depression is very common and very treatable. There are lots of proven treatments available, and these treatments are more effective the earlier you start!

As always, PlushCare doctors are available to talk with you about any questions you have, including any questions about your mental or emotional health. PlushCare’s top physicians will diagnose, treat, and prescribe you medication all from your phone. For more information or to book an appointment, visit plushcare.com.

Doctor on phone
Anjali Dixit

Anjali Dixit

Dr. Anjali attended Stanford University and is continuing her training in anesthesiology at UCSF. She has a background in public health and an interest in how technologies can shape U.S. healthcare.

Read More