Lately I've been feeling uninterested in socializing. All I want to do is stay home and have DVD marathons. I've been feeling like this for about two months. Should I be worried I'm no longer wanting to spend time with friends and family - which I used to enjoy?
All of us can benefit from the occasional DVD marathon. It can give us time to unwind from the day-to-day grind of our lives and give us an opportunity to recharge.
However, if your tendency to avoid people has been going on for weeks or months on end, there may be cause for concern.
Periods of feeling down or sad are common for all of us; most of the time when we feel this way, we aren't depressed. Usually, mood changes will go away on their own within a few days or weeks, especially as stressors that commonly cause these mood changes start to resolve.
For some people, mood issues may continue for weeks or longer. If you find that you have been feeling sad or down and have had little interest in things you normally enjoy, like spending time with friends, for an extended period, it's possible you are struggling with an emotional problem like depression. Depression is one of the most common psychological health conditions and affects one out of four people over the course of their lifetime.
Contrary to popular belief, depression doesn't always mean feeling sad or tearful - for some people, a "depressed" mood may feel like irritability or frustration, and for others it may be associated with feeling "flat" or feeling "nothing."
Depression comes along with other problems that may include:
- Changes in appetite and weight (either losing your appetite or wanting to eat more than usual)
- Changes in sleep (sleeping too much and not feeling rested or not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep)
- Problems concentrating and focusing (on work, TV, reading)
- Extremely low energy and fatigue
- Feeling restless or "on edge"
- Feeling hopeless about the future
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Dark thoughts about death or suicide
If you are feeling any of the above - particularly if you are having dark thoughts - you should speak to your family doctor or a psychologist or psychiatrist. There are very effective treatments for depression, including cognitive-behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy and, for some people, medication therapy. With time and the right treatment, you can get better.
You may be able to access free services through your local mental health agency (see www.cmha.ca for a Canadian Mental Health Association office near you). There are also a number of free and useful resources at www.heretohelp.bc.ca and www.comh.ca/selfcare.
Send psychologist Joti Samra your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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