Depression affects about 1 in 20 Americans each year, but among people with spinal-cord injury, the prevalence is even higher, about 1 in 5 according to the University of Washington.
It’s important to understand that depression, a medical condition just like other secondary conditions of SCI such as pressure sores, chronic pain and autonomic dysreflexia, requires medical attention and care.
Commonly, people become sad for a week or two after injury. But the medical changes to your body and the stress of it all can cause chemical changes in your brain causing depression. If that sadness lasts longer than a couple weeks and is accompanied by sleep changes, feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness or thoughts of death or suicide, it may be time to talk to your doctor.
Once you’ve been given a diagnoses, you and you’re doctor can discuss which treatment option is best for you. Options include medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two.
Antidepressants work to balance the brain chemicals that were making you feel off in the first place. However, many people experience undesirable side effects and prefer to take a more holistic approach like counseling. Not all therapy involves lying on a couch and talking to someone about your problems. In some cases, people just need help finding and engaging in activities they enjoy and will bring a sense of meaning and purpose to life. After SCI, certain activities you used to love may not be as easy anymore. If you loved to play basketball with your friends, it might help to find a wheelchair basketball team to get you back into a daily routine you enjoy and appreciate. This is where seeking support can help you find activities you love to do from your wheelchair.
For more information and to take a Depression Self-Test, visit sci.washington.edu/info/pamphlets/depression_sci.asp.