Whether you’re feeling sad or suspect that sadness might be something more, don’t neglect your emotions. Here’s when, and how, to seek help
With the COVID-19 pandemic likely came a flurry of emotions—fear, excitement, stress. But of all the ups and downs most of us have confronted during the past few months, intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, and loneliness might be the most prominent.
A recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that depression rates have surged among American adults since the start of the pandemic, up from 11 percent in 2019 to 36 percent in 2020. Increased reports of loneliness have been occurring as well, with one survey from SocialPro noting that roughly one-third of adults consider themselves to be lonely.
While it’s entirely normal to experience these negative emotions, it’s also important to seek help—and ultimately get treatment—if you’re struggling. Depression, when left untreated, can have a number of harmful impacts on your health, including increasing your risk for heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, and a weakened immune system.
The sooner you're able to identify your needs and receive help, the sooner you'll start to feel better. Here are some of the most common signs of depression to take note of:
- An “empty” feeling
- Lack of energy, or fatigue
- Loss of interest in activities
- Trouble sleeping
- Frequent crying
- Irritability or anger
- Unexplained aches and pains
- A hard time focusing
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Thoughts of death or suicide (if you’re having suicidal thoughts, call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255)
If you have several of these symptoms and they last more than two weeks, talk to your doctor, says the National Institutes of Health, and ask about treatment options. Your doctor will determine if you are experiencing depression, a different health problem like a thyroid disorder, or a medication side effect.
Treatment options for depression
The two main types of treatment options are talk therapy and medication, or a combination of the two.
Talk therapy is counseling with a psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, psychiatrist, or another emotional health expert. Therapy sessions can help prevent feelings of depression and identify any issues that may be causing you to feel this way.
Depression medication generally refers to antidepressants, and there are a range of them on the market. If your doctor feels medication might be appropriate, he or she will discuss options with you.
Different approaches and combinations work for different people, and your doctor will help determine the right treatment for you. Both therapy and medication do not necessarily show instant results, so know that treatment may be a process that takes time.
Spending time with friends and family, even virtually, can help counter depression. Consider engaging in your community in the following ways:
- Have a phone call with a friend you haven’t spoken to recently
- Attend a virtual workout with a friend or take a socially distanced walk
- Donate to charities and various causes in your area
The most important thing you can do when struggling with depression is ask for support, both professional and personal. Know that you are not alone.
For any questions regarding mental health coverage, benefits, or providers, please call the Mental Health/Substance Abuse phone number on the back of your member ID card.