Your First Aid Kit for Depression (Part 1)

I am a specialist and a professional in psychiatry, psychotherapy, and hypnosis. I have masters degrees as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, and as a Licensed Professional Counseling. And I have been certified by two different organizations over the last 15 years. My commitment in this Chapter of Life Motivations is to make sure you know what you can do to handle your own depression, without having to consult a professional.
Obviously, my disclaimer here is that this is like a First Aid Kit for Depression and certainly in now way replaces professional advice, counseling when needed.

The point being, however, that if you can catch a depression in its earliest stages, and intervene quickly and effectively, you can save yourself a lot of anguish, trouble and money! Sooo, here it goes:

The major symptoms of a clinical depression are listed in an acronym called SIGECAPS. Whenever you are wondering, “Could I be depressed”? Check out where you are at with these symptoms:

S: Sleep disturbance. This includes either sleeping way too much, or having significant insomnia.

I: Interest: The things that you would normally be very interested in, find pleasurable, or entertaining, simply do not interest you anymore. They are not worth the effort. We call this symptom, anhedonia.

G: Guilt. If you have feelings of guilt for what you have done..or failed to do..or for who you are…or who you have failed to be… this indicates possible depression.

E: Energy Level. Usually when you are depressed your energy level goes way down. However, in children, hyperactivity is a major sign of depression.

C: Concentration. People who are significantly depressed often have trouble focusing; maintaining their attention on a task long enough to complete it. Of course, this must be distinguished from a background difficulty such as worry or ADD which can also decrease the capacity to concentrate.

A: Appetite. A person who is affected by depression can either have an increased appetite, engage in binge-eating, and comfort eating. OR, it can totally go in the other direction: The appetite can disappear, a depressed person can lose weight and become

P: Psychomotor Agitation or Retardation. A person may be restless and fidget a great deal: unable to relax or unwind when they are depressed. OR…in the opposite direction, a person may be lethargic, barely moving, refusing to be active. Younger people, children in particular, tend to develop psychomotor agitation; older people tend to develop psychomotor retardation.

S: Suicidal thoughts. Obviously, if suicidal thoughts are present, this depression has gone beyond the first aid kit a layman would use!! The first aid here is get to a mental health professional as soon as possible! However, it is helpful for you to know the different levels of suicidal thoughts. The mildest level is what we call “suicidal ideation”. This may consist of a wish or preference to die, or an inclination towards a passive attitude towards life and protecting life. For instance, “forgetting” to take important medications, or “neglecting” to use a seat belt. Thoughts of “I would be better off dead”, or “Please God, take me home now!” are also typical of a passive suicidal ideation.

At the next level of suicidal ideation, the passive wish becomes a conscious and active preference… “ I can do something about this”. The intention to take action and follow through on it grows. On the next level there is an active preparation and planning to commit suicide. Once a plan is firmly in place, the method is secured, and the intention is strong enough, there is a clear danger of an attempted suicide.

Unfortunately, a person going through these stages rarely talks about it. Often those who are talking about it are LESS likely to actually go through with it, and MORE likely, obviously, to get the help they need. Regardless of whether they are bluffing or venting or manipulating…never, never underestimate a suicidal threat or thought, The hotline number for the Bexar County emergency detention center for psychological crisis is : (210) 225- 5481. Of course, you can dial 911… or go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. The hospitals that have psychiatric inpatient units in the San Antonio area are : Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital; The University of Texas at San Antonio Medical Center, and the Nix Health Center. Laurel Ridge is a psychiatric facility that can do emergency intakes as well.

Join us next week for part 2 of this article…