DEPRESSION, A MENTAL ILLNESS
Depression is often misunderstood. Many people who have never experienced depression think it is “having the blues” are “being down in the dumps.” The further show their lack of understanding by telling the depressed person “snap out of it,” “get a hobby,” “exercise,” “you have nothing to be depressed about,” “cheer up.”
Depression, known as Major Depressive Disorder, is a serious medical disorder. According to nami.org, “It can be caused by psychological, biological, genetic, environmental factors. Its danger is not to be underestimated. It is the leading cause of disability in the United States and other developed countries. If left untreated, it can lead to suicide.”
The good news is it is a highly treatable illness.
A closer look at symptoms reveals these characteristics of mood: sad or very irritable; cannot be cheered up; loss of interest in pleasure in daily activities.
Among physical symptoms are insomnia or sleeping too much; change in appetite or a significant unintentional change in weight; being visibly slowed down or agitated; extreme fatigue and lack of energy; decreased sexual drive, catatonia (psychotic stage).
Behavioral symptoms include decreased motivation; decreased task performance; withdrawal and isolation; loss of gratification in effort; lack of attention to hygiene and appearance; no desire to talk, interact, socialize; grossly disorganized (psychotic stage).
Symptoms associated with thinking include accusatory, self blaming thoughts; feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt; having very low self-esteem; marked indecisiveness or the inability to think, remember, concentrate; recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans; delusions (psychotic stage), disorganized, incoherent speech (psychotic stage).
Symptoms involving the senses are hypersensitive to noise, light, stress;
hallucinations (psychotic stage).
Psychosis is a break with reality in which the person sees, hears, or feels things that are not there. Psychosis can be manifested in bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, as well as depression.
Abraham Lincoln gives a glimpse of the depths of his depression when he said, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I awfully forbode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better, it appears to me.”
Because the physical signs of a major depressive episode can mimic other illnesses of the thyroid and adrenal glands, and illnesses like MS and heart disease are known to cause depression, these physical disorders need to be ruled out. It is absolutely essential for people experiencing depressive symptoms to ask for, and get, a complete physical as part of their diagnostic work-up.
It is important to know there is good treatment for depression. A person should not try to “tough it out.” There is HOPE. Treatment works.