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Dealing with Depression: Symptoms and Treatment

Soldiers shaking hands


Depression is a common psychological concern that can affect anyone, anywhere at any time – whether or not you are a service member or veteran. Depression is not just a passing feeling of being down in the dumps, it’s not a sign of weakness and it’s not something you can just “snap out of” whenever you feel like it. It is a medical condition that can be treated and managed, just like any other; but the first step to getting effective treatment is speaking openly and honestly with a health care provider about the symptoms you are experiencing.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a genuine medical condition that can affect service members’ and veterans’ thoughts, behaviors, feelings and even physical health. It may affect different people in different ways; one person’s symptoms may be more severe, occur more frequently or last longer than another’s. Generally speaking, if you experience one or more of the following symptoms over two weeks, you should consider speaking with a health care provider to determine if you are experiencing some form of depression:1

  • Feeling sad or down in the dumps
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Lacking energy or feeling tired all the time
  • Feeling restless
  • Having difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Having extreme fluctuations in appetite
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Having problems concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Having thoughts of death or hurting yourself

Just as the symptoms of depression can be unique to each individual, the causes of depression are varied as well, including:1

  • Biological – The amount of a certain kind of chemical in your brain, called neurotransmitters, can fluctuate; when this happens people may have too much (or not enough) of them, which can cause depression. In addition, women are twice as likely to experience some form of depression during their lives as men, which may be due to a variety of factors, including hormonal changes, inherited traits, life experiences and other biological factors.
  • Cognitive – When people show signs of low self-esteem, pessimism, feeling out of control of their lives and worrying too much, they can be more likely to develop depression.
  • Other physical or psychological issues – People who experience physical illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes may be more likely to develop clinical depression. In addition, people who experience psychological issues such as anxiety disorders and eating disorders may also experience depression.
  • Substance misuse – Often times, alcohol and some drugs can act as depressants and mimic the symptoms of depression. This is also why it is not advised to use these substances if you are depressed. 

In addition, major life events can lead to depression. These include:2,3

  • Combat experience
  • Trauma
  • Stressful situations such as bankruptcy or sickness
  • The loss of a friend or loved one
  • Absence from loved ones
  • Moving to a new home, neighborhood, state or country
  • Prolonged tension in relationships
  • Having a child
  • Starting or ending a romantic relationship

How to Get Help

Depression is treatable and early intervention and care can help avoid or minimize its negative effects. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of depression, speak with a care provider early to get the best treatment. Here’s how you can reach out:

  • Chat with a professional health resource consultant 24/7 through Real Warriors Live Chat
  • Find health care providers at a military treatment facility, in the TRICARE network, or out of the network using TRICARE’s provider locator
  • Call the DCoE Outreach Center 24/7 at 866-966-1020 to speak with a professional health resource consultant

Getting help will empower you to perform better at your job, live a happier life and maintain positive relationships with those around you. When you’re feeling your best, you’ll be best able to support your fellow service members and the mission.

Take An Active Role In Your Treatment

If you have begun treatment for depression, there are a variety of ways you can contribute to the healing process. These include:1

Additional Resources


1Depression: What You Need To Know,” Major Depressive Disorder Toolkit, Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Published February 2011.
2Depression,” National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health. Last accessed Aug. 26, 2014.
3 "Depression," afterdeployment. Last accessed Aug. 26, 2014.

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