Woman in bed laying down sad

Community Psychiatry’s Pavan Madan, M.D. is featured in AARP discussing depression and mental health concerns during COVID-19.

Coronavirus Blues or Clinical Depression?

Don’t be reluctant to seek help if your low mood becomes hard to bear

For some people, feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and sadness have grown persistent during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the outbreak has kept many of us confined to our homes and separated from friends and family — and the world as we know it has been upended.

But how do you know whether what you’re experiencing is a normal reaction to a bad situation or clinical depression that should be treated?…

…Pavan Madan, M.D., a psychiatrist with Community Psychiatry based in Davis, California, says, “Anytime someone 60 or older comes with any complaint of memory loss, my first thought is that they may be depressed.” He notes that depression can appear as “pseudodementia,” in some patients, “and when we treat their depression, their memory improves a lot.”

Less well-known symptoms may include a dulling of the senses, excessive quietness or stillness and feelings of physical or emotional numbness.

Clinical or situational?

Situational depression differs from clinical depression in that once the situation changes, so do the depressive symptoms. To determine if your depression is clinical, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How did I feel prior to this situation? (In the case of the coronavirus outbreak, if you were doing well before the pandemic, chances are your depression is situational.)
  2. Do I often find myself feeling depressed during stressful times? (If the depression lifts when the stress subsides, it’s probably situational.)
  3. During difficult times, does hopeful news lift my spirits? (Clinical depression is not often eased by hopeful news.)
  4. Madan says the big question is, are you able to cope? “If you’re not functioning well, if you’re not doing your job, if you’re not able to pay attention to things, if you’re up all night crying a lot, if you’re breaking down, if you’re getting into fights with your friends, then that’s when I really feel like people should seek out help, because their functioning is impaired.”

Treatment

Regardless of the source or type of depression, don’t be reluctant to consult a mental health professional if you’re struggling. Depending on the severity of the depression, treatment options that a professional may suggest include lifestyle changes, psychotherapy or cognitive behavior therapy, which involves working with a therapist to change patterns of distorted, negative thinking, as well as medication. Madan says that if symptoms are mild, you could start with lifestyle changes. “One of the best treatments we know in terms of lifestyle changes is exercise,” he adds.

When depression is mild to moderate, says Madan, “I start introducing the idea of doing cognitive behavior therapy and possibly adding medications if things are not improving.” If depression is more severe, he will consider suggesting a combination of treatments.

 

Click here to read the entire article on AARP.

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