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Kevlar for the Mind: Symptoms determine type of depression

Mar. 19, 2014 - 01:04PM   |  
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Post-traumatic stress disorder is not the only psychiatric condition that some veterans deal with as a result of their military service. Many also struggle with depression.

In fact, studies have shown that upward of 15 percent of veterans battle daily with this particular psychiatric problem.

Depression is not a one-size-fits-all condition. There are several types of depression, and a variety of symptoms that may be present in each type. However, some of the more common symptoms that span the depression gamut include feeling sad or blue, lacking motivation and energy, losing interest in things you used to enjoy, and having trouble sleeping.

The category of depression most people are familiar with is major depression. Generally referred to as “clinical depression,” this form tends to be more severe than the others.

The individual is sad most days of the week and likely has been so for months, if not years. The person also commonly has accompanying feelings of hopelessness, guilt and shame. The cause of clinical depression can be related to something that has happened to the person in his life or as a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.

A less severe but still troubling form of depression is associated with difficulty adjusting to some specific life stress.

Life is full of bumps and bruises that can leave us feeling down. For example, after a relationship breakup, it’s common to be left feeling blue or defeated for a brief time. This is normal and expected.

But in some cases, we have a more difficult time recovering from life’s blows. In such cases, professional help may be necessary to move forward. Regardless, with time, the person will return to his or her baseline before the stress hit.

A form of depression with low-grade symptoms that last for years is called dysthymia. People with this condition tend to go through life feeling — for lack of a better term —“blah.” They may seem uninterested in activities and other people and rarely smile.

Although the cause of this form of depression is not fully known, it may be related to how those with the condition perceive the world. Because of early life experiences, their view of life has become negative. And they view everything that happens — or doesn’t happen — from that perspective.

The good news is that all forms of depression are treatable. Psychotherapy, medication or both can lead to a complete recovery. For more information on depression, visit www.apa.org.

Bret A. Moore is a clinical psychologist who served in Iraq. Email kevlarforthemind@militarytimes.com. Names and identifying details will be kept confidential. This column is for informational purposes only. Readers should see a mental health professional or physician for mental health problems.

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