The difficulties of dealing with depression

'To Save One Life' series focuses on mental health

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Every year in the U.S., more than 3 million people are diagnosed with depression, which can be caused by biological, physiological and social sources of stress.  

"You feel like you lose yourself and you don't know who you are," said Karen Taylor, of Boca Raton. 

Taylor's first bout with depression came after the birth of her first child more than 20 years ago. 

"I remember everyone would say, 'Look at your life. It's so perfect. You have a great husband and a new child. Suck it up.' You try to but you just can't get out of it. You just keep spiraling deeper and deeper," she said.

Dr. Philip Harvey, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said depression can be mild or severe and can last for short periods of time or months on end.

"What happens is that depression is quite variable in its presentation, but major depression, diagnosed as a disorder, is a persistent depressed mood that's accompanied by some other features," he said.

The warning signs of depression include sleeping too much or too little, an increase or decrease in appetite, loss of interest in activities, social isolation and changes in mood, such as being persistently sad, anxious, angry or irritable. 

"So someone who's chronically irritable, that's someone who is often depressed, and if you're a teenager, in particular, or younger even, irritability is the most common way depression gets expressed," Harvey said.

Feeling guilt, hopelessness and worthlessness are also warning signs.

"You could be in a room with everyone who loves you, hugging you, kissing you, and you still feel so alone," Taylor said.

Data shows that antidepressants only work well for about one-third of patients, which is why Harvey said it's also important to seek psychotherapy.

"The combination does improve the response rate up to over 50 percent," he said.

But Taylor can attest that neither is a quick fix.

"I went through a lot of bad before I found a good doctor to get me back on track," she said.

Taylor now freely shares her story with the hopes of removing the stigma surrounding depression.

"Because we don't talk about it, people tend to go away from it. They don't know what to say so we have to speak up," she said. "It's another disease that we're dealing with and you can't do it alone."

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