Dear Alice,

How do I know if I am depressed and need help? For about a year now, I have been easily irritated, angry, I cry when something sad or happy happens, I have lost seven pounds (last year), sometimes I have a hard time sleeping at night. I go over everything I did wrong in a day, and I have a hard time trying to concentrate on reading. I have wanted to mention this to my doctor, but I am very shy about it. He says I am physically healthy. I have tried exercising, and taking warm baths to help me feel better. What is wrong with me?

Signed,
Helpless

Dear Helpless,

Your honesty and openness about your situation is impressive — and an important step toward feeling better.

Another step is to talk with a health care provider about how you feel, preferably a mental health professional — as difficult as this may be. You can be shy and brave at the same time. When you're feeling down and shy, it can be hard to be your own advocate. Nevertheless, you've already successfully reached out with your letter, and you can continue on your path of taking good care of yourself.

For more information on the difference between "feeling blue" and depression, have a look at Friend is depressed. If you're a student, how do you feel about making an appointment at your school's counseling department or mental health clinic? At Columbia, you can call 212-854-2878 to make an appointment with a mental health provider at Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) (Morningside) or call 212-305-3400 for the Mental Health Service if you are on the CUMC campus. S/he can listen to you and work with you to figure out your next steps. If you're not a student, try the following resources for more information and a referral to someone who may be able to help you.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Depression

American Psychological Association: Depression

Although it may seem difficult at first, reaching out to your provider or someone you trust is a good first step in clarifying your feelings and finding ways to feel better. There is nothing "wrong" with you for asking for help or speaking up about your concerns.

Take care,

Alice!
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