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Article Teaser: Do you feel tired too much of the time. Or sad, empty? Has life lost its spark? Does your body have the blues? Have you felt this way for more than a few weeks? Do you wonder, "Am I depressed? Or just out of sorts?" These days, many wonder if they are depressed. And with good reason.

Keep reading below...

When the 'Blues' Last For Weeks - Part One

Copyright (c) 2006-2017

Do you feel tired too much of the time. Or sad, empty? Has life lost its spark? Does your body have the blues? Have you felt this way for more than a few weeks?

Do you wonder, "Am I depressed? Or just out of sorts?"

These days, many wonder if they are depressed. And with good reason.

"More ... people die of depression than of AIDS, heart disease, pneumonia, cancer and strokes put together," writes Gerrard Nicci in a Guardian review of Andrew Solomon's book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression.

"One in 10 people in America is on drugs to help their moods. Five percent of its teenagers are clinically depressed. Fifteen percent of people who are depressed eventually kill themselves."

Recent Statistics Canada reports indicate the situation might be worse. One in three Canadians, they say, suffer from depression.

And it is not just grown-ups; it is also our kids.


Consider this scenario: Johnny's seems sad and listless, easily irritated. He's not interested in regular activities. He drags himself around the house complaining he's "bored."

His mom worries he is depressed. His dad disagrees.

"It is just got a case of the blues. It will blow over."

He tells Johnny to "pull himself together."

Is Johnny depressed? Or just temporarily down?


Twenty years ago, Dad might have been right. Now, Mom is likely right.

Depression in teens, says Dr. Martin Seligman, past president of the American Psychological Society and author of The Optimistic Child, has reached "epidemic" proportions. Suicide, often related to depression, is the number two killer of teens in Canada. Moreover, depression strikes earlier in life than ever before.

So, how do you know if you--or--your child is depressed?


There are three types of depression. Major depression, chronic low-level depression, and manic-depression (bipolar disorder). I'll focus on the first two.

Symptoms of major depression are much the same in children as in adults:

  • Sadness, anxiety, or "empty" feelings

  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities

  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia, oversleeping, waking much earlier than usual)

  • Appetite or weight changes (loss or gain)

  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering

  • Irritability or excessive crying

  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and worthlessness

  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

  • Chronic aches and pains not explained by another physical condition.


    It's normal for us and our kids to be down from time to time.

    However, if you or your child show five or more of the symptoms of major depression and they last for two or more weeks, you should get help from a mental help professional.


    A less intense version of depression (dysthymia) involves long- term, chronic, but less severe symptoms that can nevertheless keep you or your child from functioning fully or feeling well.

    The U.S. National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) says dysthymia is diagnosed when a person suffers from at least two of the depressive symptoms above, and their depressed mood lasts for at least two years in adults, or one year in children or adolescents.

    While dysthymia is not as serious as major depression, the NIMH warns that many people with dysthymic disorder also experience major depressive episodes.


    Unfortunately, it's not always easy to diagonose ourselves, or see symptoms in children. When they feel bad for long periods, many blame themselves, or circumstances, and fail to reach out for understanding, and help.

    Do not blame yourself. If you think you might be depressed, talk to someone. A friend, family, priest, rabbi, pastor, or spiritual advisor, your doctor, a school nurse or counselor-anyone!

    Talking with others who understand is the first step to recognizing depression. It also helps you develop the emotional mastery you need to rise above it.


    Kids can't always explain how they feel, and they express symptoms differently at different ages. Instead of telling you they feel "worthless" or "hopeless," they may act out or be irritable. Other signs to be on the lookout for are:

  • A drop in school attendance or grades

  • Talk of running away from home

  • Alcohol or other drug use/abuse

  • Reckless, risky behavior

  • Difficulty with relationships

  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure

  • Outbursts of shouting, complaining, unexplained irritability, or crying.


    Teens are more at risk for depression than children.

    Moreover, children, says Dr. Seligman, "do not become hopeless." They rarely commit suicide.

    But early-onset depression and chronic low-level depression are serious. They can put your child at risk for major depression later in life.

    If you suspect a child is suffering from depression, try gently talking with them. Listen carefully and respectfully; stay aware of their feelings. Sometimes just being there for them can make a dramatic difference.

    If in doubt about yourself or your child, do seek professional help. Talk to your doctor. Contact your community health services or the local Mental Health office. Most phone books have Crisis Lines listed in the front. They will direct you to appropriate help.

    Don't worry, for now, about what caused the depression. The key is to get help for yourself and/or your child sooner rather than later. Depression can be successfully treated, often without the use of drugs.


    The best treatment for depression is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). A time-limited therapy (6 to 12 weeks), CBT helps sufferers identify--and change--the pessimistic views of themselves and their future that give rise to negative emotions and behaviors.

    Although medication can be useful in some cases of major depression, it is often prescribed indpendent of counselling. I don't recommend that. Drugs mask the symptoms. To rise above symptoms and develop effective behaviors, it is important to also get counselling such as CBT.

    Moreover, because it is skill-based, CBT works better than drugs. You do not have to go off it. Once learned, you can use its emotional mastery skills for ever.

    Perhaps more important than its role in treatment is the fact that CBT principles are the best tools for preventing depression and emotional discorders such as anxiety, panic, and burn-out.

    CBT principles such as "explanatory style" provide you with tools to depression-proofing yourself-and your kids! We will look at prevention and tools for emotional mastery in part 2 of this article-Building Healthy Optimism and Lasting Resilience.


  • For more information about depression, it's treatment and prevention see: The Optimistic Child (HarperPerennial, 1995) by Martin Seligman; and Emotional Mastery: Manage Your Moods and Create What Matters Most-With Whatever Life Gives You! (eBook, 2006), by Bruce Elkin.


    About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
    Bruce Elkin is a writer, coach, and consultant who helps individuals and organizations create what matters most-in spite of problems, circumstances, and adversity. His ebook Emotional Mastery: Manage Your Moods and Create What Matters Most-With Whatever Life Gives You is available on his website at: http://www.BruceElkin.com.

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