WHEN DEPRESSION AND OTHER MEDICAL ILLNESSES CO-EXIST

It isn’t a weakness, it isn’t normal…

Some might consider it “normal” to be depressed in response to a medical illness.  And, of course, feelings such as sadness are part of life.  But it is never normal to be depressed for long periods, usually defined as two weeks or more.  Depression is a treatable, biologically based illness caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.

…and it may not be “all in your head.”

It appears there may be physical reasons that depression often accompanies other medical illnesses.

For example, studies suggest that depression and other diseases, such as heart disease or dementia, may be interrelated.  Sometimes, the biological mechanisms of depression can be linked to, or triggered by, the chemical changes brought about by another illness.  Other studies suggest that depression may be a risk factor for illness.

Treating depression is good for your health.

The good news is that treatment works.  Treating depression is shown to improve the co-existing illnesses and extend life.  Treatment also improves quality of life–for both patients and their caregivers.

So remember, ongoing depression is never normal and there are many important reasons to treat it.

At best, half of the people with depression and co-existing illness are diagnosed.

The symptoms of other medical illnesses can mask or mimic the symptoms of depression, making it complicated to identify.  The side effects of some medicines can do the same thing.  And it is difficult for some people to talk about their feelings, thus making diagnosis a challenge.

So. if you–or someone you care about–could be depresses, tell your doctor.

But there is hope.

Traditionally, treating co-existing depression has been complicated.  Medicines can interact, and side effects in people with co-existing illness have been of particular concern.

Newer treatments (called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or SSRIs) are less likely to interact with other medications.  And, when taken as directed, they are safe, effective, and more easily tolerated.

Still, the potential for drug interactions is an important consideration when taking more than one medication.  And some SSRIs are more likely than others to interact with common medicines.

When illnesses co-exist, it’s smart to think about potential drug interactions.

Here’s a way to minimize the risk of drug interactions before they start:  Put all the medicines you take regularly into a bag (both prescription and over-the-counter drugs).  Bring it with you to show your doctor.

So, if you think you or a loved one may have depression, talk to your doctor.  You’ll be glad you did.

If the doctor thinks an antidepressant will help, here are some things to discuss:

*Is there one that is easier to tolerate than others?

*Is there one that isn’t likely to interact with other medicines?

*Will the dose change over time?

*How long until it starts working?

*How long will I have to take this medicine?

Having a medical illness is one of the strongest risk factors for having another biologically based disorder–depression.

In fact, the rate of depression in patients with some chronic illnesses roughly ranges between 25 and 50 percent.  By comparison, the rate of depression is about 5 percent in otherwise healthy adults.

If you have a medical condition you are far more likely to have depression than someone who doesn’t.

Depression is a biologically based disorder that can be treated.  And treatment improves more than your mood.  It can improve your physical health, too.

Do you have any of the common signs of depression?

*A change in eating or sleeping habits

*Feeling tired all the time

*A loss of interest in people and/or activities that once brought you pleasure

*Restlessness or irritability

*Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions

*Thinking about death or suicide

Free screenings for depression are available year-round through the Screening for Mental Health.  To locate a site near you, call 1-800-573-4433.

 

 

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