In recognition of Mental Wellness Month (January), NYC Health + Hospitals reminds New Yorkers that depression is a common illness that can be assessed by a primary care physician. Sadness is a normal, healthy reaction to life’s challenges, but depression is different, often evidenced by symptoms of an overwhelming sense of hopelessness or despair. Primary care doctors at NYC Health + Hospitals routinely screen patients for depression just as they screen for diabetes, hypertension, and other common illnesses.
One in twelve adult New Yorkers suffers from depression. A person with depression cannot just “snap out of it.” The stigma associated with depression can lead sufferers to feel embarrassed and afraid of what others may think. But depression, like most medical conditions, can be treated.
Tatianna Polonsky, MD, a psychiatrist at NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull, provides some pointers regarding the signs and symptoms of depression and how to seek help and move forward.
If you think you may have symptoms of depression, know that you are not alone, it’s not your fault, and there is help.
Know the Symptoms
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- Persistent sadness, anxiousness, or feelings of emptiness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
- Loss of appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning awakening
- Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling like you are slowed down
- Restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- If you have five or more of these symptoms, contact your doctor. If you are experiencing symptoms nearly every day, for at least two weeks, and the symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your daily activities, you may have major depression. You can find treatment for depression at NYC Health + Hospitals. You will be seen by a primary care physician who will screen you for depression, just like they would screen you for diabetes or high blood pressure. The doctor works with a care team that helps you manage your depression. Our program is set up to work with your needs and schedule.
- If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact a friend or family member, call 1-888-NYC-WELL, or visit nycwell.cityofnewyork.us . If suicidal thoughts become so overwhelming that you develop a plan or feel you might not be able to resist the thoughts to end your life, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
- Don’t deny depression. Take action. Denying it or procrastinating will only make it worse.
- Stick to a routine even if you don’t feel like it. Make sure you get up and go to bed around the same time. Eat meals around the same time every day, even when you’re not hungry.
- Move your body. Exercise helps to clear your mind and improve your mood. Incorporate 30 minutes each day into your routine.
- Improve your sleep. Make sure you get the appropriate amount of sleep and stick to a similar wake/sleep cycle even on your days off.
- Be mindful of your diet. Nutrition is fuel. Make sure you start off the day with breakfast and be mindful of new ways to incorporate better eating habits. Be sure to drink enough water and limit caffeine and sugar intake.
- Reach out to others. People who are depressed tend to isolate themselves. Make an effort to connect with people and socialize a bit, even if you don’t feel like it. Work it into your routine as a way to ensure that you get out there and do it. Meaningful connections with other people will lift your spirits.
- Follow through on medical treatment. Treatment for depression is important. It can reduce symptoms of depression, and your condition will improve. Treatment can include talk therapy, medicine, or a combination of the two. As depression affects people in different ways, treatment will also be different for everyone.
Get screened for depression by one of our primary care doctors. Click HERE to find a doctor near you.