A new study conducted by Vanderbilt University Medical Center found that one in three patients admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) long-term later develop depression, according to a recent Advisory Board article.
Unfortunately, the depression is often left untreated, as doctors and nurses do not always recognize the physical signs of the disorder.
As you treat patients with chronic or life-threatening illnesses, be aware of the following signs of depression, provided by the Mayo Clinic:
- Changes in appetite. While this may be difficult to gauge in a hospital setting, especially at the beginning of a patient’s stay, many people who are depressed experience sudden cravings and weight gain or a lack of interest in food and subsequent weight loss. Take note of any factors that may have caused these changes.
- Disruptive sleep habits. Depression often causes either insomnia or excessive sleep, so be aware of patients who experience either change. Sleep habits are also frequently accompanied with a lack of interest in activities that once made a person happy, such as visiting with friends or exercising.
- Back pain or headaches unrelated to other medical problems. Though temporary aches are common among those who are being treated in the ICU, any unexplained pain may be an early symptom of depression. Pay attention to whether these pains also accompany to listlessness or a noticeable lack of energy.
- Angry outbursts or irritation about little things. Patients will often manifest their feelings of frustration by snapping or lashing out unexpectedly at those around them. These outbursts can be a warning sign of deeper feelings of depression, such as extreme sadness or even suicidal thoughts, and should be taken seriously.
- Anxiety or restlessness. Not everyone who struggles with depression also suffers from anxiety, but patients who seem uneasy or nervous for no reason should be watched carefully, especially if these symptoms continue for several days or weeks.
Keeping a close eye on ICU patients can ensure that they are treated quickly for depression, should they suffer from it, and that they have help for the disorder once they leave the hospital.