In Japan, more than 30,000 suicides are reported a year, and it is speculated that many of the victims suffered from a depressive disorder.

Unfortunately, many people assume that depression is a result of personal weakness. Actually, a depressed condition is a medical one, so professional health care is the most important step to recovery. In this month's issue, I'll give you some tips and advice to help you protect yourself, your family, and your friends from suffering from serious depression.

Recognize Early Symptoms

Depressive disorders make one feel exhausted, worthless, and hopeless. It's important to recognize and treat depression as early as possible. Doing so decreases your risk of becoming seriously depressed. If you deny having a problem, it's probably just going to get worse. Typical symptoms include persistent sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, feelings of guilt, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, insomnia, and loss of appetite and sexual concerns as well.

If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, chances are, you have a depressive disorder. If you have persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches that don't go away or digestive disorders, you also should consider that depression could be the problem. If you have had depression in the past, you also need to watch for the types of events that contributed to depression in the past, and be alert for early symptoms.

Set Small and Realistic Goals

A depressed person usually feels overwhelmed by everything that they "should" be doing at work or at home. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Don't take on too many responsibilities and go off biting off more than you can chew. Break large tasks into small and realistic ones, set some priorities. Recognize your limits and just do what you can do.

Do What You Like Doing

Many depressed people are too busy working excessively long hours to enjoy what they love. Participating in activities, such as having dinner with your friends or going to movies, can make you feel better. If you have a hobby that you have set aside for years, take it up again.

Light Exercise

It has been reported recently that exercise can help overcome mild to moderate depression. Find an activity that you like, but don't be too ambitious.

Avoid Alcohol

Although you might think drinking will help you feel better, alcohol will likely make your depression worse. Depressed people are at special risk of developing substance abuse problems. On top of that, alcohol interacts adversely with many antidepressant drugs.

Hold Off On Big Decisions

When you're depressed, it's highly recommended to avoid making any significant decisions, such as quitting a job or getting married or divorced. Don't let the pessimism take over your life.

Getting Support

In addition to health professionals, you need to let your family, friends, and others help you. As a supporter, you need to offer emotional support, involving understanding, patience, and affection. Don't encourage the depressed person to do something, or don't push him/her to undertake too much. It makes the condition worse.

Suicide Is Always a Very Real Possibility

When you're severely depressed, you don't have the will power to kill yourself. But it's really dangerous when you're recovering. So, be alert that suicide is always possible.

Don't Rush It

If you suspect you are suffering from depression and you've sought professional treatment, well done. You can expect your depressed mood to improve slowly and gradually, not immediately. People don't snap out of a depression. Don't forget that the recovery takes time.

Keep in mind that these tips are not a substitute for professional medical care. Some other serious medical conditions can cause the same symptoms as depression, and the physician can rule out these possibilities through examination. If you discover you are showing any of the signs of depression, don't hesitate to visit a psychiatrist, "Seishinka", or a psychosomatic medicine doctor, "Shinryo-Naika"(心療内科). Have a happy day!

| health information for Japan's people | founded in 2006 | aim: accessible and informative |