Depression changes how people function

Published 12:34 pm Saturday, February 21, 2015

by April Knight

The following excerpt about depression was taken from the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website at NAMI is an excellent website that provides information, support, and advocacy opportunities dealing with mental illness and mental health issues.

We will also cover depression in depth in our family education and support group beginning on March 3.

Depression is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch. It’s a serious mental health condition that requires understanding and medical care. Left untreated, depression can be devastating for the people who have it and for their families.

Depression is a highly treatable disease. Getting an evaluation is important. Some people have only one episode in a lifetime, but for most people depression recurs. Without treatment, episodes may last a few months to several years. People with severe depression can become so hopeless that they are at high risk for suicide.

Just like with any mental illness, people with depression, a major depressive episode (also known as major or clinical depression) experience symptoms differently. But for most people, depression changes how they function day-to-day.

• Changes in sleep. Many people have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping much longer than they used to. Waking up early in the morning is common for people with major depression.

• Changes in appetite. Depression can lead to serious weight loss or gain when a person stops eating or uses food as a coping mechanism.

• Lack of concentration. A person may be unable to focus during severe depression. Even reading the newspaper or following the plot of a TV show can be difficult. It becomes harder to make decisions, big or small.

• Loss of energy. People with depression may feel profound fatigue, think slowly or be unable to perform normal daily routines.

• Lack of interest. People may lose interest in their usual activities or lose the capacity to experience pleasure. A person may have no desire to eat or have sex.

• Low self-esteem. During periods of depression, people dwell on losses or failures and feel excessive guilt and helplessness. Thoughts like “I am a loser” or “the world is a terrible place” or “I don’t want to be alive” can take over.

• Hopelessness. Depression can make a person feel that nothing good will ever happen. Suicidal thoughts often follow these kinds of negative thoughts — and need to be taken seriously.

• Changes in movement. People with depression may look physically depleted or they may be agitated. For example, a person may wake early in the morning and pace the floor for hours.

• Physical aches and pains. Instead of talking about their emotions or sadness, some people may complain about a headache or an upset stomach.

Though depression cannot be cured, it can be treated effectively. Read more on NAMI’s treatment page —

APRIL KNIGHT is a qualified mental health professional who worked with the mentally ill for the past 17 years in various roles, including as the executive director and founding member of the Western Tidewater Free Clinic. She can be reached at or at 562-6806.

Editor’s note: The Children’s Center, with a grant from the Obici Healthcare Foundation, is sponsoring the SAFE (Support and Family Education) Program, an eight-week educational and support group program developed for families and others who care about someone living with mental illness. The program will run on Tuesday evenings beginning March 3. To register, e-mail April Knight at or call her at 562-6806.