A special report from Dwight Bain
The Associated Press reported for decades that Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams struggled with clinical depression. He had won every award, had achieved fame, fortune and the status of a global celebrity. Yet, in interviews he described his life as a “meaningless struggle.” Fame will not make you feel better, and drugs or alcohol only numb the pain. He had trouble getting out of bed and was hospitalized or placed in treatment centers multiple times. But it didn’t change the outcome. Why? How come a talented man with so much to live for wasn’t able to reinvent his life to move past depression and what can we learn from his tragic death to help the people you care about?
I believe if you can talk through it – you can get through it, so talking about the subject of depression may lead thousands of others to take time out to evaluate their own lives, or the lives of those they care about. Depression affects children, teens, adults and seniors. The following special report and depression warning symptoms check lists can help you better understand depression, what often causes it and what to do about it. Remember, if you are experiencing overwhelming symptoms of depression that you will need to see a licensed medical or psychological professional for assistance because depression doesn’t get better by itself – but left untreated it can get much worse and often lead to a premature death.
Depression is more than sadness or having a ‘bad day.’ It is a long-lasting, often recurring illness as real and disabling as heart disease or arthritis, Adults who experience clinical depression may feel an oppressive sense of sadness, fatigue, and guilt. Performing on the job may be difficult … going out with friends may be unthinkable … merely getting out of bed may be impossible. The person who has depression feels increasingly isolated from family and colleagues – helpless, worthless, and lost. This is why it is so important to reach out to be there for those you care about struggling with depression. Your presence can make all the difference.
Depression is a very common emotional condition. In varying degrees of severity, it affects 6-10% of all U.S. adults, more than ten million people in any given six month period, according to the American Psychiatric Association. At least one in five Americans will experience a major depressive episode during their lifetime, with women twice as likely to develop depression as men and remember that children and teens can also be at risk for depression. Listen to the words of author Don Baker as he describes his own journey through depression.
It is impossible for those that have never been depressed to fully understand the deep, perplexing pain that depression causes. For four years I appeared healthy, without bandages and without crutches. There were no visible scars, no bleeding, and yet there was the endless, indefinable pain that no doctor’s probing fingers could locate- no drug could totally relieve. There was always the pain and along with it the desire for oblivion- that would only come in restless snatches of restless sleep. I seemed to be out of touch with reality. Life was a blur, often out of focus. My life seemed to be nothing but pretense and fantasy. No one really cared, I felt-not even God. The only solution-at times-seemed to be suicide. To be told that Christians never get depressed only pushed me deeper into my black hole of depression. The way out of that black hole was a long and painful process- one that required the sensitive and insightful counsel of a friend… friends can help you through it, and God can use it to enhance and enrich your life. –Don Baker, from the book, “Depression”
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF A PERSON HAS DEPRESSION?
If you or a person you know has exhibited four or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, professional help should be considered:
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Frequent wakening in the middle of the night
- Eating too much or too little
- Inability to function at work or school
- Headaches, digestive disorders, nausea, pain with no medical basis
- Excessive crying
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Lack of energy, constant fatigue
- Slowed thinking
- Difficulty in concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Loss of sex drive
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness
- Restlessness, agitation, irritability
- Feelings of inappropriate guilt or worthlessness
WHAT CAUSES DEPRESSION?
We know that depression results from an interaction of several factors – environmental, biological, and genetic.
Environmental Factors. Stress resulting from the loss of a job, death of a family member, divorce, or ongoing health or family problems can trigger depression.
Biological Factors. Depression may also be tied to disturbances in the biochemicals that regulate mood and activity. These biochemicals, called neurotransmitters, are substances that carry impulses or messages between nerve cells in the brain. An imbalance in the amount or activity of neurotransmitters can cause major disruptions in thought, emotion and behavior. Some people develop depression as a reaction to other biological factors such as chronic pain, medications, hypothyroidism or other medical illnesses.
Genetic Factors. Because depression appears to be linked to certain biological factors, people can inherit a predisposition to develop depression. In fact, 25 percent of those people with depression have a relative with some form of this illness.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Doctors know more about depression than perhaps any other emotional illness. Because of research and medical advancements, 80 to 90 percent of those with a depressive disorder can be treated successfully.
Evaluation. A complete evaluation with a qualified professional is the first step in seeking treatment. Only a licensed physician or psychologist can diagnose a person with a psychiatric disorder. During the diagnostic evaluation, the physician or psychologist will determine if any other factors are contributing to or even causing the depressive symptoms.
Professional counseling. Various psychotherapies, cognitive behavioral therapy or “talk therapies” commonly used in the treatment of depression focus on the causes and effects of the illness. Interpersonal therapy helps people deal with problems in personal relationships. Cognitive therapy helps patients change negative thoughts or perceptions, such as high achievers who are convinced they are failures.
A DEPRESSION CHECKLIST FOR YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES
The purpose of this checklist is to help you assess patterns of depression. There are no good or bad answers — only honest ones. Please answer Yes or No to each question as it applies to you.
_____ 1. Do you feel sad or “empty” much of the time?
_____ 2. Do you find yourself becoming irritable and quick tempered?
_____ 3. Have you lost interest in ordinary activities?
_____ 4. Do you find it hard to get out of bed in the morning?
_____ 5. Do you tire easily?
_____ 6. Is it becoming increasingly difficult to focus or concentrate?
_____ 7. Have you gained or lost weight recently?
_____ 8. Do you find yourself crying frequently or more easily?
_____ 9. Do you feel anxious or tearful much of the time?
_____10. Are you having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up early in the morning?
_____11. Do you feel guilty or overly responsible for others?
_____12. Is your attitude more negative than it used to be?
_____13. Are you overly critical of yourself or do you find yourself lacking?
_____14. Do you feel taken for granted by family, friends, or other relationships?
_____15. Are you increasingly impatient with your children?
_____16. Does your work day stretch on endlessly?
_____17. Do you have thoughts about dying or death?
_____18. Have you started drinking or using drugs to dull your pain or have previous habits worsened?
_____19. Do you sometimes feel that other people are criticizing or talking about you?
_____20. Do you find yourself experiencing headaches? Stomach aches?
Muscle pain? Chronic aches and pains?
_____21. Have you tried to hurt yourself or put yourself in dangerous situations?
_____22. Is there a past history of depression for you or another family member?
_____23. Do you find it hard to make decisions about everyday matters?
_____24. Are you pulling away from family and friends and spending much of
your time alone?
_____25. Have you lost interest in your sexual relationship?
If you found yourself answering “yes” to more than a few of these questions, it may be time to reach out for help. Remember- Depression doesn’t go away by itself or get better if left alone – it only gets worse. Please don’t let the people you care about suffer with depression alone – be there for them.
WHO IS AT RISK FOR DEPRESSION?
- People who have a family member with depression
- People who have experienced a stressful or traumatic life event
- People who lack the social support of a spouse, friends, and extended family
- People who abuse drugs and alcohol
- People who have chronic medical illnesses or persistent pain
IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE DEPRESSION …
- Remember, your depression is not your fault and it can be effectively treated.
- Seek treatment. Don’t let misconceptions about emotional illness or the discouragement of your depression stop you. Either on your own, or by asking a friend or family member, contact your family doctor, community mental health center, or local medical or psychiatric hospital for help.
- In the weeks until treatment becomes effective, you can take some simple steps to help you deal with life on a day-to-day basis: Break large tasks into small steps; set easily managed priorities; participate in light exercise and relatively undemanding social activities, such as attending a movie or visiting a friend. Simply being with others can be helpful.
IF SOMEONE YOU CARE ABOUT HAS DEPRESSON…
- Encourage treatment. Remember that the symptoms of depression may prevent a person from trying to get help. Your personal physician, mental health center, or local psychiatric hospital will be able to help you find a treatment specialist.
- Adjust your expectations and offer support, understanding, and
- Demonstrate that you know the person is in pain.
- When the person says or does something upsetting because of the depression, try to put your reaction into calm, reasonable words. This will help the person understand how his or her conduct affects others, and help you better cope with a trying situation.
SIGNS OF DEPRESSION
How do you know it someone is depressed?
- Appearance – sad face, slow movements, unkempt look
- Unhappy Feelings – feeling sad, hopeless, discouraged or listless
- Negative Thoughts – “I’m a failure!” “I’m no good!” “No one cares about me”
- Reduced Activity – “I just sit around and mope” “Doing anything is just too much of an effort”
- People Problems – “I don’t want anybody to see me” “I feel so lonely”
- Guilt and Low Self-esteem – “It’s all my fault” “I should be punished”
- Physical Problems – sleeping problems, weight loss or gain, decreased sexual interest or headaches
Suicidal Thoughts or Wishes – “I’d be better off dead!” “I wonder if it hurts to die”
If the warning signs and symptoms of depression sound like you or someone you care about, it may be time to reach out for some professional help. Call a hotline, speak to a pastor, chaplain or counselor. Don’t go through depression alone.
THERE IS HOPE IN LEARNING MORE
Reach out for help … because the more you learn about depression, the better you will understand that it has specific causes and effective treatments. And like any illness, depression can affect anyone at any time.
By reaching out for information you can recognize the signs and symptoms of depression. That knowledge may someday allow you to help someone get the treatment he or she needs to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
Behavioral Strategies to overcome Depression
- Make a short “To Do” list of activities you can succeed at today
- Think of ways you can improve your health
- Ask for what you want – you might get it!
- If your health allows, run, jog, walk or swim with a friend
- Help someone else who is less fortunate
- Make play a high priority – remember “Laughter is the best medicine”
- Reach out and touch someone else. Join a ball club or a homemaker club. Reach out to someone who is lonely. Give away a dozen friendly smiles.
- List the ways you belittle yourself
- List the ways you can let go of your depression
- Answer these questions: Do I really want to change? What benefits do I get for being depressed? What does it do for me? What payoffs would I get if I let go of my depression? If I was not depressed what would I be doing?
- Ask yourself, “What do I need that I am not getting?” Often the basis for our feeling depressed is the fact that we do not like ourselves. And what we need to do is start liking ourselves. Find one thing you like about yourself and think about it. If you have trouble with that think about the fact that you are still alive. You have come this far in life. You are still here. You have a purpose in life – and as you find it you will find greater meaning and strength – so keep walking toward the kind of life you want to have and don’t stop.
- Get busy doing things you enjoy, like being with a friend
- Make a “stroke” file. It is almost certain that at some time in your life people said they liked something about you. Jot down that positive stroke on a scrap of paper and put it in a box or file. Add any letters or cards from people who let you know they appreciate you. You can add to your collection at any time. Then, when you feel down, look in your stroke file and let yourself enjoy the compliments you have received from others.
- Make a list of things you like about yourself. Think about and enjoy your positive assets and accomplishments.
- Pamper yourself. Give yourself some pamper time.
- Take a soothing hot bath for 30 minutes while listening to your favorite music.
- Take a leisurely walk.
- Lie down under a tree and experience your oneness with nature.
- Have a cup of hot tea.
- Bake some cookies.
- Go for a walk with a pet or friend.
And remember to pray for guidance. You are not alone in battling depression. God will be there for you if you call out to him. Thanks for reading and remember to share this important information with others. Thank you.