Depression is a common psychological concern that can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time. This is true whether or not you serve in uniform. Depression is not just a passing feeling of “being sad” and you can’t just “snap out of it.” It’s a medical condition that can and should be treated. The first step to getting effective treatment is speaking openly and honestly with a health care provider about how you feel.
Signs of Depression
Depression can affect your thoughts, behaviors, feelings and even physical health. How and why it affects you is different for everyone. You may experience depression for reasons including:
- Biological factors. The amount of certain brain chemicals, inherited traits, hormonal changes and even gender. Women ages 14–25, for example, are twice as likely as men to experience depression.
- Emotional factors. Low self-esteem, negativity or feeling out of control of your life.
- Major life events. Losing a loved one, stressful experiences like combat or illness, ending or starting a new romantic relationship, or moving to a new location.
- Other physical or psychological issues. Physical illnesses, like diabetes or heart disease, or certain psychological health concerns like eating disorders.
- Substance misuse. Abusing alcohol, drugs or smoking.
If you experience one or more of the following symptoms for two weeks or more, reach out to your health care provider:
- Feeling persistently hopeless, negative, empty, worthless or guilty
- Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
- Low energy or feeling tired all the time
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Extreme changes in appetite or weight
- Trouble concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Restlessness or anxiety
Talk to your health care provider immediately if you have more serious symptoms, like thoughts of death or hurting yourself.
Take an Active Role in Your Treatment
Depression and reaching out for help aren’t signs of weakness. If you begin feeling depressed, early intervention and care can make a difference. Don’t wait. Contact your provider as soon as possible to learn about the best treatment options for you. If you have begun treatment already, there are a variety of ways you can help your healing process. These include:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthy
- Develop good sleep habits
- Practice relaxation techniques
- Avoid misusing alcohol and drugs
- Set small goals and pace yourself
If you aren’t already in treatment, you can find health care providers using TRICARE’s provider locator.
Remember, reaching out is a sign of strength. If you or a loved one needs additional support, contact the Psychological Health Resource Center 24/7 to confidentially speak with trained health resource consultants. Call 866-966-1020 or use the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can also see a list of key psychological health resources here.
- American Association of Suicidology. (n.d.). Risk factors for suicide and suicidal behavior
- American Association of Suicidology. (n.d.). Understanding and helping the suicidal individual.
- Defense Suicide Prevention Office. (2018). Department of Defense (DoD) Quarterly Suicide Report (QSR), 1st Quarter, CY 2018.
- Psychological Health Center of Excellence. (n.d.).Suicide risk.
- Ramchand, R., Acosta, J. D., Burns, R. M., Jaycox, L. H. & Pernin, C. G. (2011). The war within: Preventing suicide in the U.S. military. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2017). Suicide risk assessment guide. [PDF 3.2 MB]
- U.S Department of Veterans Affairs. (2018). VA national suicide data report 2005-2015.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2017). VA research on suicide prevention. [PDF 393 MB]