It’s OK to Not be Ok: Know the Signs of Depression and When to Get Help

Clara Lora Ospina, Psy.D.

What do you do when you have a fever, feel sick, or have persistent symptoms that won’t go away? Most people go see a doctor – whether it be their primary care physician or someone at an urgent care center or health clinic.

But what do you do when you are struggling with difficult emotions, a challenging situation, or a lingering feeling of unease? Do you seek help from a trusted therapist, clinical social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist? Do you have a trusted mental health professional you can call when you need help?

October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month and the perfect time to evaluate how you’re feeling, coping with life’s challenges, and ensure you have a way of getting help when you need it.

Most people wait to seek out a mental health professional until things have progressed and become almost unmanageable. But the time to find someone is now.

I believe everyone should have a mental health professional to call just like they have a primary care doctor. This way, when you’re going through a tough time, help is one call away. Don’t wait until things have progressed too far to try to find someone. Many professionals have waiting lists, and it may take time to find someone in your area whom you connect with.

And do not feel that you must be going through something dramatic to get help. You can seek help for any situation – whether it be struggling with stress, going through a bad breakup, job loss, or you are just feeling down. Everyone can benefit from support and encouragement, and no one must go through a difficult time alone.

Dealing with Depression
One common question I’m often asked is how do you know if you are dealing with a case of the blues or if it is depression?

In the mental health field, we have outlined criteria that we use to diagnose any psychiatric disorder. We use these criteria to determine if you are going through a challenging time or facing something more, like depression. When you meet with a licensed professional, they will ask you a series of questions about your last two weeks to determine if you are dealing with depression.

Some signs or symptoms of depression include diminished interest in many activities including, those that used to bring you joy, significant weight loss or weight gain, challenges with sleep (whether it be difficulty falling asleep or wanting to sleep all day), and diminished ability to concentrate. Remember, these symptoms don’t need to go on for a long time to be diagnosed with depression, and the sooner you catch and deal with them, the better.

In addition to these screeners, a professional will also collect information about your background, family history, and more. They will use all this information to determine a possible diagnosis and discuss a treatment plan to get you back on track and feeling better.

Be Patient
When going through therapy or through one of life’s challenges, it’s important to remember that change often takes time.

Most likely, your depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenge did not develop overnight. It will not be cured and disappear overnight, either.

It may take some time before you begin to feel better. And sometimes, it can get worse before things get better. Don’t be scared by that but be prepared for it. Therapy is an unpacking process, and you must work through it to get better.

It’s OK to Not Be OK
Remember, it is OK to not be OK. All of us struggle, and many people experience signs, symptoms, and full-on depression. What matters is what you do when it happens. The worst thing you can do is try to suppress these feelings and bottle them up. They will resurface, and it may be worse than before.

I believe you can face and get through whatever challenge life has thrown your way. And you don’t have to go through it alone. Help is available, and there are people like myself and my colleagues who are here and want to support you through it.

Clara Lora Ospina, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and Clinical Director of the Adult Outpatient Center for Behavioral Medicine at Jackson Health System.