BRAIN WAVES

Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Blog

Identifying and Defeating

The Invisible Enemy of Depression

By Luke Fadell, BIAAZ Veteran and Military Family Navigator

Some days, you just feel like phoning it in. Maybe you had a setback at work, or your better half is talking about leaving you. It might seem like even your dog is avoiding you. All you need is a pickup truck with four flat tires, and you’d have a hit country song on your hands.

This is what’s known as being sad. The good thing is, much of the time, you know this feeling will pass in a few days.

On the other hand, if you feel constant, intense sadness and hopelessness, aren’t really interested in things you once enjoyed, and are consumed with guilt and low self-esteem that never seem to go away, you’re dealing with something different.

This is depression and it’s a serious disorder, but it’s also treatable, as long as you recognize it and become actively involved in your own recovery. In order to lift that omnipresent cloud, please understand you are not alone.

Military personnel are typically at higher risk for developing this mood disorder. Up to 14 percent of service members experience depression after deployment; however, the actual number is probably higher, as not all cases are reported. Roughly one-in-five report traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), where damage to the brain can also cause symptoms of depression. Additionally, military spouses often suffer from depression at a rate greater than the general population.

Veterans may also become depressed when transitioning back to civilian li­fe, as their new world doesn’t have the same structure they had become accustomed to. Many describe the feeling as being shut down, drained, empty, or wanting to be numb. Avoiding people and sleeping poorly (either too much or too little) are also indicators.

The following is a brief questionnaire to see if you exhibit any of the signs and symptoms of depression. Choose the answer that best describes your feelings over the past two weeks.

You can also use this interactive version.

Little interest or pleasure in doing things?

  • Not at all
  • Several days
  • More than half the days
  • Nearly every day

Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?

  • Not at all
  • Several days
  • More than half the days
  • Nearly every day

Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much?

  • Not at all
  • Several days
  • More than half the days
  • Nearly every day

Feeling tired or having little energy?

  • Not at all
  • Several days
  • More than half the days
  • Nearly every day

Poor appetite or overeating?

  • Not at all
  • Several days
  • More than half the days
  • Nearly every day

Feeling bad about yourself, or that you are a failure, or have let yourself or your family down?

  • Not at all
  • Several days
  • More than half the days
  • Nearly every day

Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television?

  • Not at all
  • Several days
  • More than half the days
  • Nearly every day

Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? Or the opposite — being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual?

  • Not at all
  • Several days
  • More than half the days
  • Nearly every day

Thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself in some way?

  • Not at all
  • Several days
  • More than half the days
  • Nearly every day

If you checked off any problems, how difficult have these problems made it for you to do your work, take care of things at home, or get along with other people?

  • Not at all
  • Several days
  • More than half the days
  • Nearly every day

Scoring:

0 = “Not at all”

1 =  “Several days”

2 =  “More than half the days”

3 =  “Nearly every day”

If you scored 0-8, you have few or no signs of depression. You can and should still reach out for help from a mental health practitioner if you feel you would benefit.

If you scored 10-14, you have minimal symptoms of depression and could benefit from talking with a counselor at your convenience.

If you scored 15-27, you have many of the symptoms of depression and should see your doctor or a qualified mental health professional immediately for a full assessment.

Once in therapy, many report an immediate effect. Some of the positive things people have said include the following:

“It allowed my walls to come down.”

“Now I have different ways of thinking more positively.”

“I now look forward to the future.”

“Life will get better.”

I urge my fellow veterans to take up the fight against depression; it starts with acknowledgment and talking to those who can help. It may not seem so now, but a more fulfilling life is right around the corner.

You are not alone.

Veterans and their families are encouraged to reach out directly to BIAAZ’s Veteran and Military Family Navigator Luke Fadell at  veterans@biaaz.com

ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members and professionals.

What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:

  • Works with Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
  • Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
  • Hosts Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Workgroup
  • Has Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response team with peer support, training, and family wraparound services
  • Facilitates Brain Health Advisory Council
  • Manages statewide Neuro Info-Line: 888-500-9165

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