Like any other disease, depression is best treated if diagnosed early and correctly. Unfortunately, the disease still carries an unfair stigma and is often hidden by the patient or misdiagnosed by the medical community.
“One of the real tragedies of depression is that people can be treated successfully, but often are not,” said Dr. Alberto Colombi, PPG’s corporate medical director. “Patients may hide or deny their illness because they consider it a weakness of character instead of a disease of the brain -- which it is. Or, they simply may be misdiagnosed. Treating depression through drugs and psychotherapy isn’t costly, but not treating it can cause major disruptions in a person’s work, family and other relationships.”
An employee’s primary care physician (PCP) often is in the best position to make the assessment and recommend treatment.
“Unfortunately, a PCP may not be equipped to deal with the disease or won’t refer the patient to a psychiatrist,” Colombi said.
“There’s a real disconnect in the health-care system when it comes to depression, and PPG is working with insurers and providers to help PCPs recognize the problem and recommend the appropriate treatment. This is a legitimate disease, and we need to align the health-care resources so they’re available and receptive when a patient seeks help.”
Employees can also contact their local Employee Assistance Program representative for confidential help in accessing care for stress- or depression-related concerns, Colombi said.
According to the National Mental Health Association, there are numerous causes of depression. People with the disease may have too little or too much of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which can cause or contribute to depression. Other potential causes and contributors include negative thinking patterns; side effects of some medications; having certain serious illnesses such as cancer or diabetes; a family history of depression; and difficult life situations, such as divorce or a loved one’s death. In addition, being a woman doubles the chances of developing depression, according to the association.
“Certain parts of the year -- such as the holiday season -- are times of great stress for many people and a potential trigger for depression,” said Colombi. “There are many ways to avoid becoming depressed throughout the year. These include setting realistic expectations, building a strong support network of family and friends, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, and focusing on the future instead of the past.”
While some people may pass off depression as simply the “blues” or the “blahs,” there are warning signs that should not be ignored. According to the National Mental Health Association, a person should seek professional help if he or she is experiencing five or more of the following symptoms for at least two weeks:
“People should not be afraid to seek help when they are depressed, and they also shouldn’t hesitate to offer or suggest getting help to someone they feel may be depressed,” said Colombi. “We need to get past the outdated views of depression and accept that it’s a real disease that can and should be treated as such.”
(Source: Various sources cited by the National Mental Health Association.)
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