We all have blue days:
We're missing someone we've lost, the expected promotion didn't come through, we've exhausted ourselves over the holidays. But when these feelings continue for a long time and begin to interfere in your life, you may have an illness that doctors call major depressive disorder (or depression).
Depression is not something you can "just snap out of." It's caused by an imbalance of chemicals in your brain; just like diabetes, cancer, or any other serious medical problem, depression needs treatment for you to be well again.
How do I know I'm not just having a bad day?
Symptoms of depression sometimes creep up on their victim. They may be triggered by a difficult event (like divorce, childbirth, or job loss) which makes it hard to see where the natural sadness ends and a depressive event begins. But over time, these symptoms become distinctive. They include feeling sad or "flat," unexplained changes in eating or sleeping, feelings of hopelessness, guilty or worthlessness, losing pleasure in things you used to love (whether that's your job or flying kites with the kids), and sometimes thoughts of death or suicide.
In the midst of an episode of depression, it may be hard to see yourself and identify depressive symptoms clearly. A spouse or close friend may mention that you haven't seemed like yourself, or maybe you've noticed that you're just not functioning like you used to. If so, your doctor is an objective person to talk with about how you're feeling and whether you're suffering from depression.
But I've heard that antidepressants are dangerous!
While a few people may have unusual reactions to mood altering medications, most modern drugs for treating depression are safe and effective.
Wellbutrin, a relatively new antidepressant medication, is one of these drugs. It works by affecting the chemicals that changed in your brain to cause depressive feelings. Unlike some other antidepressants, it's more likely to make you feel "alert" rather than "mellow." It also is less likely to cause sexual side-effects and weight gain than other antidepressants.
Talking to your doctor
One of the hardest parts of depression is that you may feel helpless or exhausted and thus have a hard time getting motivated to see a doctor. If you can, ask a friend or loved one to help arrange an appointment. When you see your doctor, she'll help you sort through your symptoms. She'll also check on whether any other medications that you're on (like MAO inhibitors or nicotine patches) might interact with Wellbutrin. If you've had a history of seizures, she may also suggest a different drug.
But if Wellbutrin fits with your life and health, she'll start you on a prescription, which you can fill at your local pharmacy or even online! Once you started taking it, it may take a little time before the effect is apparent (remember, it's a gentle antidepressant. If it's not working after a few weeks, contact your doctor to talk about a dose adjustment.
You should also contact your doctor if you start experiencing significant side effects, especially if they get worse over time. These include symptoms of anxiety (like sweating, difficulty sleeping, and dry mouth) or significant loss of appetite.
As Wellbutrin readjusts your brain chemicals, you should begin to feel more active and interested in your life. Best of all, you'll be back to yourself - with your own natural highs and lows - the person that your family and friends know and love!