Depression, The Disease No One Wants to Talk About

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According to Dictionary.com, depression is defined as a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason.

More than 3 million cases per year of of clinical depression are treated but it is a disease that people don’t want to talk about. There is a stigma associated with depression that shrouds the disease in shame that prevents many people from talking about it or admitting they suffer from it. Untreated depression kills many Americans every year. On March 25, 2001, my brother who suffered from untreated depression took his own life, so I am all too familiar with the deadly effects that it can produce. It was one of the most devastating events in my life. At the time I didn’t have a good understanding of mental illness and the impact it has on an individual. What did I do wrong? Did I fail him somehow? These are questions I struggled with for years. Two things I have learned since that time are Suicide is almost NEVER a selfish act (nothing makes me angrier than someone saying how selfish it is) and someone suffering from untreated clinical depression can be in such a dark and hopeless place that suicide can seem like the only way out; the only hope.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
  • Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
  • People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

I have many friends and family members that suffer from depression and anxiety. When you see someone you care about that is suffering, it is one of the most helpless feelings. One of the key symptoms of depression is a lack of hope. It seems as though there is nothing to live for.  Now I don’t mean to suggest that all people that suffer from depression are suicidal. That is not what I mean here.  What I mean is that when there is a lack of hope, there is a sense that nothing in this world has any significant meaning and there is no motivation to do the things that once were enjoyed. Depression is not logical or rational. Two of the primary causes for depression are chemical imbalance in the brain and how we respond to many major life events. Now I am not a psychologist but this comes from years of reading on the subject and my own personal experiences. The chemical, for example, can be affected by many things such as a lack of dopamine in a Parkinson’s patient and serotonin imbalances in someone who suffers from chronic pain.  How we respond to major life events is yet another influencing factor.  Now you can have two people who react to the exact same situation in completely different manners so as a friend of mine pointed out Epictetus said that it wasn’t the thing that bothers a man but how the man thinks about the thing.

One of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease is depression. For years I have suffered from depression. I have tried dozens of medications and I have just now found a medication regimen that is somewhat effective. Now one thing I do feel strongly about is that just medication is not the answer. I believe an important component, if not the most important, is cognitive therapy. It is so important to talk to a trained professional on how one deals with major life events, one’s belief system and the understanding one’s true identity. 

Spirituality, which is part of my belief system and one of the factors that affects mood may not be a very popular subject but I believe that my faith in God gives me a sense of hope that lifts my spirits. Romans 15:13 (ESV): 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. I believe that the spiritual component of one’;s belief system has a major role in depression.

Because I have become so passionate about this subject, I have gone back to school and I am working on a Masters in Counseling. Since I am on disability, I am not working on a second career but there is a lot of people I can help through volunteer work. If you are suffering from depression and you are not getting help, please do. If you are unsure if you are suffering from depression, go to https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools/depression and take the screening test to see. On the resources page on the website there are links where you can get help. If you feel like you might’ve suffering from depression, see your Primary Care Physician as soon as possible. Don’t suffer needlessly; help is out there and there is hope.