Depression: It’s Not “All in Your Head”

Depression is often related to a medical condition like spinal-cord injury. But it is treatable! Don’t let it ruin your life of that of someone you care about

During or following holidays, many people feel “blue” for a variety of reasons. But at any time, mood disorders like depression are common among individuals who have chronic health conditions. After a spinal-cord injury, a person experiences major life changes. Adjusting to these changes can take time and often requires help. However, depression can strike at any time — whether you are able bodied or have a disability.

Depression is a condition in which a person feels sad, hopeless, or powerless. It can be brief or long term. And it can range from a mild sense of feeling blue to more severe forms in which it completely disrupts a person’s life. Depression can feel like a cloud that darkens everything and take the joy out of life. Fortunately, in most cases, it can be improved or cured.

For people with SCI, depression can contribute to:

• Pressure ulcers

• Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

• How easily they get sick

• Chronic pain

• Longer or more frequent hospital stays

• Problems with personal relationships

• Problems with caregivers

• Substance abuse

• Higher medical expenses

People with SCI also have a higher risk of suicide as a result of depression.

Following are some signs of depression. If you have any of these, don’t wait for a scheduled checkup. Call your primary care physician right away. Exhibiting one of more of these signs doesn’t mean you’re depressed, but it could mean something is wrong:

• You think about killing yourself or have tried to commit suicide

• You feel sad or empty, or cry often

• You feel worthless, hopeless, or guilty often or all the time

• You have trouble sleeping or sleep much more than usual

• You don’t care much about activities you used to enjoy

• You have become careless about personal habits like bathing, brushing your teeth, changing your clothes

• You’re tired a lot or have much less energy than you used to

• You have problems concentrating or making decisions

• You have much less or much more appetite than usual

• You feel slowed down, heavy or sluggish

• You have so much nervous energy it’s hard to relax or hold still

• You avoid your friends and people you care about

• You turn to alcohol or drugs when feeling angry or sad

• You have less interest in sex than usual

• You are irritable or get angry more easily


The preceding information is in the consumer guide Depression: What You Should Know — A Guide for People with Spinal Cord Injury, which is available for free download from (click on publications). It was developed by the Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine, with administrative and financial support provided by the Paralyzed Veterans of America.


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