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The last several months have been emotionally challenging for most of us. The coronavirus has led to unemployment for many. For those who are employed, adapting to remote work – and remote schooling for kids – has been stressful. Being separated from friends, family and colleagues has often brought about feelings of loneliness, anxiety and isolation.

Depression is on the Rise

These feelings are borne out by the numbers: According to the Centers for Disease Control, adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively affected due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.

The divisive state of U.S. politics is also taking a toll. A recent study by the American Psychological Association revealed 62 percent of Americans say they are stressed by the current political climate.

Feelings of sadness and worry are normal responses to all this uncertainty and loss. But at what point do these feelings indicate something more serious? According to the CDC’s  National Center for Health Statistics, nearly a third of Americans are now showing signs of clinical levels of depression or anxiety, meaning more than just normal sadness or stress.

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the Unites States. National Depression Screening Day is a good time to learn what you need to know about understanding this disease, both in others and in yourself.

What is depression?

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

What can I do to feel better?

  • Reach out to other people. Isolation fuels depression, so reach out to friends and loved ones, even if you feel like being alone or don’t want to be a burden to others. The simple act of talking to someone face-to-face about how you feel can be an enormous help.
  • Get moving. When you’re depressed, just getting out of bed can seem daunting, let alone exercising. But regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication in countering the symptoms of depression.
  • Eat a mood boosting diet. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, sugar and refined carbs. And increase mood-enhancing nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Find ways to engage again with the world. Spend some time in nature, care for a pet, volunteer, pick up a hobby you used to enjoy (or take up a new one).

When should I seek help?

You don’t have to wait until things are terrible. Talk to your friends and family, and don’t forget that your primary care provider will be always willing to help and prevent things from getting worse. Your primary care provider can help determine whether you are depressed and rule out other medical conditions that may cause similar symptoms, as well as help develop a personalized care plan.

If you have thoughts of harming yourself, or need to speak with someone immediately about yourself or someone you are worried about, please contact the national suicide prevention line, 800-273-8255, or the national crisis text line (text 741-741) which provides anonymous and confidential crisis counseling via text messages.

Sources: American Psychiatric Association, Centers for Disease Control