Mental Health is Part of Your Health
The first step is recognizing that your mental health is your health. Your mental health can also affect your physical health in some serious and surprising ways. When you’re feeling down, you may be less likely to take care of yourself: you may skip dosages of a medication or not get enough sleep. You may also engage in riskier behavior, such as drinking or eating to excess, taking drugs, or acting out aggressively.
It goes both ways: people with chronic conditions may be more likely to suffer from poor mental health. And if you have a physical condition AND you suffer from depression, you may have worse health outcomes.
Understand the Difference Between Sadness and Depression
You’re probably no stranger to sadness: it’s an emotion that makes you feel bad or down, usually following an unfortunate or unpleasant event, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or ending a relationship. Sadness is a common, and even appropriate reaction to these circumstances.
But in some cases, the sadness becomes something more, and can manifest in intense and even physical symptoms such as:
- Fatigue/loss of energy
- Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of worthlessness
If you have any of these feelings that last almost all day, for at least two weeks, and it’s gotten to the point that it interferes with your daily activities, you may actually suffer from depression.
Depression is a serious condition. It may have its roots in an event, such as a major life change (getting fired, moving away from family and friends…even the stress from a happy event like getting married may trigger it). It can be a physical condition, or it may run in your family. Even getting less daylight can cause depression.
There’s a common myth that you can just snap out of it; perhaps if you just get some fresh air, talk to a friend, or treat yourself to a nice meal, you’d be able to cheer yourself up. But that’s not how depression works. It’s not a matter of will power, commitment, or positive thinking. Unless you get help, depression can last for months or even years.
Seek Out Professional Help
If you think you’re suffering from depression or mental illness, talk to a doctor. Under the Affordable Care Act, all health care plans are required to provide coverage for mental health care.
Your primary care doctor is a good place to start, since they already know you and your health care history. It may be easier for you, since you’re already familiar with them.
Getting Tested and Treated
Once you’ve found a doctor, they can help you determine if you do have depression or another mental health disorder, its underlying causes, and the best treatment to help you feel better.
You may be given a physical exam and lab tests to help rule out other conditions. For example, if your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough hormone, you may experience depression-like symptoms, such as a low mood, fatigue, and weight gain or loss.
At this point, your doctor may recommend medication or refer you to another doctor for additional testing and treatment.
If your doctor recommends medication, you may need to try different medications before you find the one that works for you. Having bloodwork and a history of your symptoms will help your doctor tailor your treatment, but not every patient responds to every drug. If that’s the case, communicate your feelings to your doctor, be patient, and follow their advice about your prescription.
You Don’t Have to Suffer – and You Don’t Have to Do It Alone
AltaMed is here for you, and we’re committed to your mental and physical well-being. To learn more about AltaMed’s behavioral health services, call 855-425-1777.
If you have suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.