Depression 101

With the loss of Robin Williams came many discussions about depression. Through the horrible sadness felt by his fans around the world, Robin taught us a final lesson – that depression can attack anyone anytime anywhere. If you are a fan, I’m sure you shed tears for this wonderful man, genius of comedy, and a gentle soul.

Let’s take a look at depression. First of all, that’s a general term. It’s defined as: severe despondency and dejection, typically felt over a period of time and accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.

Did you know that highly creative people including artists, poets, writers, and geniuses/near-genius suffer frequently from this illness? 

But that doesn’t tell the half of it.

1) Some people will report depression as “the blahs,” or “feeling nothing,” or they complain of aches and pains rather than sadness.

2) People with milder forms of depression may appear completely functional, but underneath they are making a huge effort just to get through the day. Individuals with depression always find it very hard to do the simplest tasks, even if they don’t say anything about it.

3) Major depressive disorder is defined as: a mood disorder having a clinical course involving one or more episodes of serious psychological depression lasting two or more weeks each with no intervening episodes of mania.

4) Clinical depression: (definition from Mayo Clinic)

Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Clinical depression is the more severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It isn’t the same as depression caused by a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder.

Clinical depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting more than 19 million Americans each year.This includes major depressive disorder, manic depression and dysthymia, a milder, longer-lasting form of depression.

For clinical depression, you must have five or more of the following symptoms over a two-week period, most of the day, nearly every day. At least one of the symptoms must be either a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, empty or tearful (in children and teens, depressed mood can appear as constant irritability)
  • Significantly reduced interest or feeling no pleasure in all or most activities
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite (in children, failure to gain weight as expected)
  • Insomnia or increased desire to sleep
  • Either restlessness or slowed behavior that can be observed by others
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Trouble making decisions, or trouble thinking or concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or a suicide attempt

Symptoms must be severe enough to cause noticeable problems in relationships with others or in day-to-day activities, such as work, school or social activities.

Clinical depression can affect people of any age, including children. However, clinical depression symptoms, even if severe, usually improve with psychological counseling, antidepressant medications or a combination of the two.

5) Atypical depression: Atypical depression is a subtype of major depression or dysthymic disorder that involves several specific symptoms, including increased appetite or weight gain, sleepiness or excessive sleep, marked fatigue or weakness, moods that are strongly reactive to environmental circumstances, and feeling extremely sensitive to rejection. People with atypical depression have often experienced depression first at an early age, during their teenage years.

 Atypical Depression will fool the patient and the family. Because this form of depression can be alleviated by a pleasant ride, a visit with friends, good feedback at work, etc. patients and family members are likely to think the problem is “personal” rather than biological.

6) Depression can affect all ages both male and female and any race and any socio-economic area.

7) (from NAMI)

Demoralization and hopelessness are universal in this illness, as are indecision, changing one’s mind, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate. People with severe depression appear totally self-absorbed and self-involved. This incessant, negative internal dialogue fills the sufferer with intense shame. For this reason, many people with psychotic depression will not readily admit their delusions.

It is not possible to predict whether the person with serious depression will attempt suicide or when. Thoughts of death occur for most people with serious depression. For many, these thoughts are not a wish to die, but simply to be released from the terrible mental anguish they are suffering; or the feel like such a burden, they think that others would be “better off without them.”

8) Signs that someone might be about to commit suicide: (also from NAMI)

Signs to look for are “tearfulness, brooding, irritability, obsessive rumination, anxiety, phobias, excessive worry over physical health, complaints of pain.” People with depression are experiencing tremendous distress; this mental and physical anguish is very real for them.

9) Women suffer more from depression than men but older men suffer frequently from depression. While men will discuss other health topics they tend to avoid the topic of depression. One in four women and one in ten men will experience depression at some point during their lifetime.

10) Depression affects more than 6.5 million of the 35 million Americans aged 65 years or older. Most people in this stage of life with depression have been experiencing episodes of the illness during much of their lives. For others, depression has a first onset in late life—even persons in their 80s and 90s. Depression in older persons is closely associated with dependency and disability and causes great suffering for the individual and the family.

11) Of the estimated 17.5 million Americans who are affected by some form of depression, 9.2 million have major or clinical depression. Most do not seek help.

12) 1 in 4 young adults will suffer an episode of depression before age 24.

13) Depression often co-occurs with other physical and/or mental health issues and with addictions. Sometimes drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol ‘alleviate’ their pain.

14) Men suffering from depression are more likely to take their lives than women suffering from depression.

Take this illness seriously. If you are suffering from any form of depression, please get help immediately.

If you are contemplating suicide, get help now! Call the Suicide Prevention: 1-800-273-TALK

The day after Robin Williams died, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline got the most calls it’s ever had.

If someone you know fits the symptoms or has been talking about suicide, get them help and above all, listen to them. Be there for them. Encourage them. Please try to understand their cry for help, that their mind is telling them to end it all. You can’t really understand this unless your own mind has told you to take your life.

Don’t tell them to get some fresh air. Don’t tell them to go to church or to pray about it. Don’t tell them that by taking their own lives they’ll rot in hell. Don’t tell them you haven’t got time to listen right now. Don’t tell them to quit bothering you about it or go outside if they’re going to kill themselves and to not get blood all over your floor. And especially, don’t – DON’T – tell them to go ahead and get it done already.

Realize this is an illness but there is help. And know that if one medicine and/or therapist isn’t helping, there are other options out there.

Depression ruins lives. How do I know? Because I’ve met people who suffer from this mean illness. Because I’ve known people who have committed suicide. Because I’ve seen the sadness in the eyes of those left behind.

Let’s help one another in this way too as we help one another succeed.

LHR, my friends. I care, and I know you care.


One thought on “Depression 101

  1. Thanks for this informative summary. I learned quite a bit. The inner dialogue is really critical to creative types, but it’s easy to see how it can get out of control and steer us in bad directions. That’s definitely the time to seek help.

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