Some web facts about depression

Depression is not something you can just "snap out of." It’s caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals, along with other factors. Like any serious medical condition, depression needs to be treated.
If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, you may wonder why it had to happen to you. The fact is that anyone can get depression.
Some people say that depression feels like a black curtain of despair coming down over their lives. Many people feel like they have no energy and can’t concentrate. Others feel irritable all the time for no apparent reason. The symptoms vary from person to person, but if you feel "down" for more than two weeks, and these feelings are interfering with your daily life, you may be clinically depressed.

Most people who have gone through one episode of depression will, sooner or later, have another one. You may begin to feel some of the symptoms of depression several weeks before you develop a full-blown episode of depression. Learning to recognize these early triggers or symptoms and working with your doctor will help to keep the depression from worsening.

Most people with depression never seek help, even though the majority will respond to treatment. Treating depression is especially important because it affects you, your family, and your work. Some people with depression try to harm themselves in the mistaken belief that how they are feeling will never change. Depression is a treatable illness.

from Wikipedia:
It is hard for people who have not experienced clinical depression, either personally or by regular exposure to people suffering it, to understand its emotional impact and severity, interpreting it instead as being similar to "having the blues" or "feeling down."
If you have depression, you may feel hopeless and sad or stop feeling pleasure from almost everything you do. You may feel "down in the dumps," tearful, or discouraged. You may also be irritable or anxious or have low energy levels. The symptoms of depression are often subtle at first. It can be hard to recognize that symptoms may be connected and that you might have depression.

The two most significant symptoms of depression are:


Sadness or hopelessness.


Loss of interest in or pleasure from most daily activities.

Other symptoms include:


Losing or gaining weight because of changes in appetite.


Sleeping too much or not enough.


Having problems concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.


Feeling unworthy or guilty without an obvious reason.


Feeling tired all the time.


Feeling restless and unable to sit still or feeling that moving takes a great effort.


Thinking often about death or suicide

Imagine attending a party with these prominent guests: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Robert Schumann, Ludwig von Beethoven, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, Vincent van Gogh, and Georgia O’Keefe. Maybe Schumann and Beethoven are at the dinner table intently discussing the crescendos in their most recent scores, while Twain sits on a couch telling Poe about the plot of his latest novel. O’Keefe and Van Gogh may be talking about their art, while Roosevelt and Lincoln discuss political endeavors.

But in fact, these historical figures also had a much more personal common experience: Each of them battled the debilitating illness of depression.

It is common for people to speak of how "depressed" they are. However, the occasional sadness everyone feels due to life’s disappointments is very different from the serious illness caused by a brain disorder. Depression profoundly impairs the ability to function in everyday situations by affecting moods, thoughts, behaviors, and physical well-being.

Depression strikes about 17 million American adults each year–more than cancer, AIDS, or coronary heart disease–according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). An estimated 15 percent of chronic depression cases end in suicide. Women are twice as likely as men to be affected.

Many people simply don’t know what depression is. "A lot of people still believe that depression is a character flaw or caused by bad parenting," says Mary Rappaport, a spokeswoman for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. She explains that depression cannot be overcome by willpower, but requires medical attention.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 80 to 90 percent of all cases can be treated effectively. However, two-thirds of the people suffering from depression don’t get the help they need, according to NIMH. Many fail to identify their symptoms or attribute them to lack of sleep or a poor diet, the APA says, while others are just too fatigued or ashamed to seek help.

Major depression affects 15 percent of Americans at one point during their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its effects can be so intense that things like eating, sleeping, or just getting out of bed become almost impossible.

Major depression "tends to be a chronic, recurring illness," Laughren explains. Although an individual episode may be treatable, "the majority of people who meet criteria for major depression end up having additional episodes in their lifetime."


What is depression?

I have this friend. A good, old friend. The kind of friend who’d help you out in a fix.

When I first started getting depressed, she’d sometimes pick up that something wasn’t quite right. So she’d turn up on my doorstep, waving gifts of food or drink and shouting, "CHEER UP, LUVVIE!"

Oh no. Oh please no.

Call me ungrateful, but that was the last thing I wanted to hear. Cheer up. Yeah, right. Did she think I liked being miserable?

Most people think that depression is just a prolonged bad mood. If someone say, "I’m depressed", people will ask: "What about?" In reality, depression is more like a feeling of numbness than a feeling of sadness. And while it can be triggered by a particular event like loss of a job or a loved one, it can also come on for no apparent reason.

It’s unfortunate that we use the same word for two different things – a low mood, and a diagnosable illness. It means people often fail to recognise the symptoms of depression, and don’t get treatment for it. And at its worst, severe depression can end in suicide — making it not just a miserable illness, but a fatal one.

People with depression are in good company. Judy Garland, Winston Churchill, Sinead O’Connor and Michel Foucault have all admitted to prolonged bouts of melancholy.

But don’t go thinking that you have to be a tortured, angsty, creative type to be depressed. Dr Petros Markou, a Darwin-based psychiatrist who specialises in depression, says that everyone is vulnerable.

"You don’t have to be a certain type of person. And it doesn’t mean that you’re weak, or somehow lacking from a personality point of view. The people who see it that way are usually people who’ve never had depression themselves."

In reality, depression is so common it’s downright ordinary: 15 per cent of the Australian population will go through a period of significant depression at some point during their lives.

Petros Markou himself is one of them. Some years ago, he had an episode of depression that lasted for nearly a year, during a time when there were big changes happening in his life.

"I had just finished my psychiatry exams: I had achieved the thing I had been working towards for more than 10 years. And I had a sense of no longer having anything to strive for. It was a sort of hollow feeling. And that hollow feeling gradually developed into severe depression."

He found himself to be quite a different person.

"When I was depressed, I really doubted my own judgment. I blamed having gone into psychiatry, and I wanted to leave. It wasn’t very rational. It’s not something I like to think about very much.

It was a very scary feeling. I thought it was never going to get any better."

But with hindsight, he says the experience had its benefits.

"What it has brought me is a better understanding of my patients. Reading about it in the textbook and actually experiencing it yourself are very different things. I can be patient with them, because I had to be patient with myself. And it changed my view of myself. I realised I was not invincible."

"I was the sort of person, like Tigger, you know, [who] bounded out of bed in the mornings and couldn’t wait to face the day. I absolutely adored life. And all of a sudden I was thinking about how to end it. And I knew that was terribly wrong, but I didn’t think in my mind ‘I have an illness’ — it’s just not how you conceptualise depression. You say to yourself, ‘Get on with it; what’s wrong with you?’ … I had been brought up in a world where you were totally self-reliant and you didn’t give in to whims and moods. It was simply unacceptable."
Kay Jamison

"When you’re depressed, you get up in the morning and then you go back to bed for the rest of the day. If somebody knocks on the door you just don’t answer it, unless it’s a close relative that you feel comfortable about, because you just can’t cope with socialising. On medication, you can stay awake and you can manage, but there’s no inspiration and no creative flair. I can’t cook, and don’t feel much like eating, nothing’s very attractive. Everything’s very blah – just flat."

"What I feel more than anything when I’m really depressed is that lack of safety around my own person. The fact that if I allow this to go on, or if it does go on, no-one comes in to save me, that I will not be saved, that I will die probably at my own hand. That is very hard to explain to other people."
Leonie M

What causes depression?

At the most basic level, nobody really knows what causes depression. The dominant theory is that it is a result of low levels of certain neurotransmitters (messenger chemicals that carry signals from one nerve cell to the next) in the brain. This is called the ‘monoamine theory’ of depression — monoamines being the group of chemicals that these neurotransmitters belong to.

The neurotransmitters thought to be involved are serotonin (which helps regulate emotion, sleep and appetite), noradrenaline (which is linked to arousal and alertness), and dopamine (which is associated with pleasure and reward). People with depression are known to have lower brain levels of these chemicals, and drugs that elevate them can help lift mood.

So the theory makes sense. But it is not known for sure whether monoamines are the primary cause of depression, or whether other factors are causing both the lowered neurotransmitter levels and the depression.

You’re more likely to experience depression if you:

have a family history of depression. If someone in your immediate family has depression or bipolar disorder (manic depression), you are two to three times more likely to do so. This may indicate a genetic vulnerability.

are female. Women have nearly twice the risk, though the reasons aren’t clear. It’s often been thought that women are more likely to admit or talk about their depression, while men are more likely to use alcohol or drugs to help them cope. But a recent study found that women’s increased rates of depression could largely be attributed to their higher risk of anxiety — which in turn, puts them at higher risk of depression.

are under stress. Ending a relationship, losing a family member or close friend, or losing a job can trigger depression in some people. Under such circumstances, nearly everyone will, of course, be sad — but not everyone will be depressed. A predisposition to depression, and/or low levels of social support, make some people more vulnerable.

are a perfectionist. Certain kinds of perfectionism — not just striving to excel, but having unrealistically high expectations of oneself, being unable to accept fault or failure, and a constant lack of satisfaction, irrespective of performance — have been associated with an increased risk of depression, particularly in the face of work- or school-related stress.

have another medical condition such as an under-active thyroid, which can either contribute to depression on its own, or through the stress that comes with being ill. People who’ve had a heart attack, stroke, cancer, or diabetes, for example, have higher than average rates of depression. Some prescription medications can also increase your risk.


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