|Am I Depressed or Just Lonely
Source: By Valerie Grosz for LIFELines
After his third month of deployment, Pfc O'Neil felt lonely because he missed his girlfriend. Sheila, a young mother, didn't leave the house for months after the Army moved her family across country again. Sixteen-year-old Charlie's grades dropped and he became antisocial after his father died in Iraq.
It's common to feel lonely when your spouse deploys or a loved one dies. However, there is a fine line that separates loneliness and actual depression. A multitude of life events can cause someone to feel lonely, sad, or helpless. Behind reasonable sadness and grieving, however, sometimes hides a serious overlooked disorder that affects men, women, and children of all ages and cultural backgrounds — depression.
Loneliness or Depression is a diagnosed mood disorder brought on by chemical imbalances in the brain that are often triggered by stressful life events. Depression ranges in severity and can be treated with counseling and medication. Loneliness, on the other hand, is a temporary feeling of sadness and helplessness that natural coping skills can help remedy. Signs and Symptoms of Depression Symptoms of loneliness and depression can overlap. However, with depression, symptoms continue beyond two weeks, while feelings of loneliness subside soon after their onset.
According to WebMD, symptoms of depression may include:
- problems concentrating, remembering and making decisions
- changes in eating and sleeping habits
- a loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- feeling tired all the time or restless and unable to sit stil
- difficulty going to work or taking care of your daily responsibilities
- feelings of guilt and hopelessness
- slowed thoughts and speech or no speech
- preoccupation with thoughts of death or suicide .
"If you find yourself uncharacteristically angry, you may be also struggling with depression," says M. Catherine Womble, a licensed clinical social worker from Saunderstown, R.I. When you feel something is not right with your attitude and normal habits, or your family and friends observe ongoing abnormal behavior, make an appointment with your medical care provider. Doctors can order tests to rule out physical or internal medical conditions, and they can refer you to mental health providers. Most large posts have medical treatment facilities that house mental health clinics. Smaller and remote bases that do not have mental health clinics have good relations with local providers that provide counseling and treatment for mood disorders.
The TRICARE handbook outlines eligibility and mental health benefits for all military families. Treatment for depression should involve your family doctor and a professional counselor, which may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or other licensed professional clinician. A depression diagnosis opens the door to medications that can help get you back to a normal life again. You can take a confidential online depression-screening exam from the National Mental Health Association. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry outlines helpful information about children and depression. Help yourself combat loneliness and sadness by focusing your mind on other things, such as exercise, volunteering, exploring new habits and socializing with family and friends. Time, coupled with positive thinking, can also help remedy these feelings.