Depression Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is Depression?
A: People often say "I'm depressed" when what they are really experiencing is sadness. Clinical depression is more than just feeling blue or down after a bad day at work or during a difficult period in your life.
People who are clinically depressed feel down, sad, or hopeless all the time, for weeks on end, and can experience the following symptoms:
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
- Appetite loss or overeating
- Difficulty thinking clearly, remembering or concentrating well enough to read or watch television
- Persistent feelings of sadness, worthlessness, guilt
- Restlessness or irritability
- Thoughts of death or suicide
These symptoms can be similar to the experiences associated with grieving the death of a loved one. However, in depression, these feelings arise without such a loss, or they last much longer than the usual cycle of grief.1 Depression may also occur along with related conditions such as alcohol or other substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or any number of other physical and mental health disorders.
Q: How common is Depression for Service members?
A: Lifetime prevalence levels from community-based surveys range from 4.9% to 17.1%.2-4 The Iowa Gulf War Case Validation Study found that (32%) of the 602 surveyed veterans met criteria for a current or lifetime depressive disorder.5 Another study surveyed 2530 Service members before they were deployed to Iraq and found that 11.4% suffered from depression. This study also surveyed 3671 Service members after their return from combat duty in Iraq or Afghanistan and found that rates of depression ranged from 14.2% to 15.2%.6
Q: Will I need to see a specialist in order to get treatment for depression?
A: Your primary care manager or (PCM) may be able to prescribe an appropriate medication for treatment of depression. If your PCM believes it is necessary to seek specialty care, they will be able to assist you to that next level of care.
Q: How do I locate a specialist?
A: Veterans who are eligible to receive care under the Veterans Choice Program can locate a provider here: www.va.gov/opa/apps/locator/
Please visit www.va.gov/healthbenefits/apps/choice to check your eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program.
1This was modified from A Guide to Beneficial Psychotherapy. The Committee on Science and Practice (chaired by William Sanderson, Ph.D. at Rutgers University) is an initiative of the Society of Clinical Psychology, a division of the American Psychological Association.
2Kessler RC, McGonagle KA, Zhao S, et al. (1994). Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of DSM-IIIR psychiatric disorders in the United States. Results from the National Comorbidity Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 51, 8-19.
3Robins L, Regier D. (1993). Psychiatric Disorders in America. New York: Free Press; 1991.
4Depression Guideline Panel. Depression in Primary Care: Volume 1. Detection and Diagnosis. Clinical Practice Guideline, Number 5. Rockville, Maryland: U.S Department of Health and Human Services. AHCPR No. 93-0550.
5Black, D. W., Carney, C. P., Forman-Hoffman, V. L., Letuchy, E., Peloso, P., Woolson, R. F., & Doebbeling, B. N. (2004). Depression in veterans of the first Gulf War and comparable military controls. Annals Clinical Psychiatry, 16, 2, 53-61.
6Hoge, C.W., Castro, C.A., Messer, S.C., McGurk, D., Cotting, D.I., & Koffman, R.L. (2004). Combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mental Health Problems, and Barriers to Care. The New England Journal of Medicine, 351, 13-22.