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Are You Experiencing Depression? 4 Symptoms You Should Know

Ms. Vicki

Depression is the fourth most troublesome illness in the world -- it's estimated that more than 120 milllion people suffer from it. In the US alone, it's estimated that each year 17 to 21 million people experience depression. This illness affects anyone, regardless of economic status, race, gender and age. On the other hand, women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression in any given year and among adults between the ages of 40-59 years, African Americans, and financially disadvantaged persons are more likely to receive this diagnosis. As the draw down occurs with the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we are seeing depression in servicemembers and family members too. Over time, depression can get worse. Because of this, it is imperative to seek treatment.

While depression can be experienced differently from one person to the next, several symptoms are associated with it. One person may have one or two symptoms while another person many have many. The most familiar symptoms are feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and sleeplessness, as well as changes in appetite (from eating too little to even overeating). Other common symptoms include excessive crying, staying in bed for long periods of time (including more than normal), and even thoughts of ending your life. For a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms are experienced most of the day for at least two weeks. Again, if untreated, these symptoms can persist for years.

It is normal to experience situational depression due to the loss of a job, relocation, death of a loved one, divorce, retirement and even deployment. The situational experiences may not last long and your overall capability to function should not be impaired. However, if it continues to the point where you cannot work or carry on with your daily routines you should speak to a professional. Depression is not an illness about willpower.

4 Symptoms You Should Know:

1.You find yourself crying a lot and you don't know why. You are sad and blue, with little energy or desire to carry out your daily routines. You have lost the "get-up and go" attitude you once had.

2. Your appetite has changed and you are not eating very much at all, or you could be overeating. This has caused weight gain or even weight loss. Notice a fluctuation in weight.

3. You beat yourself up because you can't snap out of it. Every day you say it will be different, that you will return to your normal. However, every day it is the same: you can't snap out of it. This is not about willpower. You feel worthless, hopeless and you even feel guilty too.

4. You have lost your zest or zeal for life and the activities that you once found pleasurable. You loved to exercise, go out for drinks with friends, biking or bowling. However, you are constantly invited to do these things with family and friends, but you don't have the desire to do them. Life is no longer exciting.

Don't be afraid to get help. Solicit help from a loving family member or friend you can trust. Spiritual support from your Pastor, Rabbi or other clergy member can be helpful. Remember: in case of an emergency call 911 for immediate help.

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Ms. Vicki, a native of Dallas, has been the ‘Dear Abby’ for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her column has appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Ms. Vicki has retired from writing new columns for Although Ms. Vicki is no longer offering new advice on, you can still email military benefits questions to our Questions and Benefits team. Need military spouse career help? Email our Dear Career writers.

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