Felt that Depression
I have always felt that depression should be and can be classified as what is known as an invisible illness. Meaning that even though an individual can be clinically diagnosed with the condition, it is not something that can be distinguished just by looking at him or her. A cast can be seen on a broken arm and a blood can be seen when someone has a cut, but depression is a mental illness, and it does not physically manifest for the eyes to see.
I have chosen to research and write about depression for this paper because it is an illness that I strongly feel does not receive as much attention as it should. It is less than 2 months shy of being 2019 and there is still a stigma attached to depression, along with many other mental illnesses. I have witnessed severe depression first hand, and I have even experienced it myself. It is easy to formulate an opinion on mental illness, but until someone has gone through it himself, he will never truly understand how deeply it can affect the life of someone who is suffering.
Sometimes referred to as clinical depression or major depressive disorder, depression is a mental illness that is characterized by prolonged feelings of sadness and/or hopelessness that can negatively impact the way one feels, thinks, and acts in his everyday life (Parekh, 2017). While people who suffer from depression experience sadness, depression and sadness are different and the two words should not be used interchangeably. It is not just a sour mood that can be improved with a smile, a laugh, or a joke.
What separates sadness from depression is when people do not exhibit a normal response to certain events or situations. A person can be sad when his favorite sports team loses a big game, or when his boss yells at him at work, but those things do not affect how he thinks and acts in everyday life for an extended period. Depression causes sufferers to have little to no interest in activities that once made them happy. Even commonplace tasks like getting out of bed, taking a shower, and getting dressed can prove to be difficult.
People of all ages, races, and genders can be affected by depression, however in general, women tend to be affected more than men. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 322 million people in the world live with some form of depression (n.d.). As for the United States, depression affects 20-26% of the female population and 8-12% of the male population (Lieber, 2018), with the average onset being around 32 years of age.
Those percentages may not seem like a lot but given that the American population is approximately 320 million people, around 74 million women and 32 million men suffer from some form of depression in the United States.
There is no one definition that encompasses all the types, symptoms, and causes of depression. There is no one definition that can apply perfectly to everyone who suffers from it either. Like many medical conditions, depression affects everyone differently and there are many manifestations of the illness, ranging from mild to severe, each with different causes. However, some of the most common causes of depression include abuse, major life events, death, serious illness, and genetics.
Those who have suffered from abuse, whether it be during childhood or in their present life, have a higher chance of becoming depressed due to all the trauma they have endured. Certain major life events such as moving, losing a job, getting divorced, or the loss of a loved one can also lead to depression (Jaliman, 2016). Serious illness is another common cause of depression. When someone is diagnosed with an illness like addiction, cancer, diabetes, or Parkinson’s disease, it can take a serious toll on the sufferer and his or her family members. The stress of treatments, appointments, and a grim prognosis can make anyone susceptible to depression. And last, while not as widely known as the other causes of depression, a person’s genetics can also play a part in if he or she develops the illness at some point in life. If an individual’s mother or father has suffered from depression, he is at an increased risk of developing it as well, just like with any other medical condition (Jaliman, 2016).
A few of the most common manifestations include dysthymia, situational, postpartum, and seasonal depression. Dysthymia is arguably one of the most prevalent forms. It is a continuous long-term illness that can last for years. It can range from mild to severe and it presents with feelings of hopelessness and low self-worth, along with lack of productivity and loss of interest in everyday activities (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2017). Other symptoms may include insomnia, extreme fatigue, and lack or increase in appetite. Situational is basically depression that happens during or after certain high stress events. This is the depression that occurs after a breakup, divorce, change of job, financial hardship, or the loss of a loved one.
Another commonly known type of depression is postpartum. Most often it occurs after a woman has given birth, but it can also appear while the woman is still pregnant (Schimelpfening, 2018). Women who suffer from this, experience normal depressive symptoms like insomnia, loss of appetite and interest but the most significant being difficulty bonding with their newborn baby. Seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective disorder is a type of depression where sufferers encounter symptoms during the winter months while being perfectly okay during the spring, summer, and fall. It is thought to be caused by a disturbance in the normal circadian rhythm, or the 24 hour cycle, of the body (Schimelpfening, 2018).
While depression is a clinical diagnosis, there are not any lab tests or diagnostic imaging that can definitively diagnose the illness. Tests and scans can be used to rule out other causes for the depression, such as hormonal imbalances but the patient himself is the most critical asset a doctor has. Since lab tests are not helpful in diagnosing depression, many physicians use what is known as a depression screening to help them identify depressive symptoms. Talking with the patient and questions about daily moods, behaviors, events, and habits are often asked to help lead to a diagnosis (Bhandari, 2017). A definitive diagnosis is often difficult due to the numerous manifestations of the illness and the symptoms that present with them.
When it comes to treating this illness, each type of depression may respond better to a certain form of treatment than another. Medication is one of the most well-known and widely used treatments for depression. There are so many different antidepressants out there that it would take me two full pages just to list all of them. Some of the most common ones include Lexapro, Zoloft, Prozac, and Celexa, among others. The medications each work slightly differently however according to a Health Line newsletter they all work to balance certain chemicals within the brain, with the goal of relieving symptoms (n.d.).
While the medications can be beneficial for some it may not be the answer for others. Since a woman’s body goes through many hormonal changes during pregnancy and birth, women who are suffering from postpartum may be prescribed hormone therapy to try and fix an imbalance that may be at play. Another common form of treatment is psychotherapy. Psychotherapy or talk therapy is generally used as the sole treatment for those who suffer from mild depression, but it is used with medication to treat moderate to severe depression (Parekh, 2017). Sometimes talking to a professional who is unbiased, about hardships that an individual is going through is easier than talking to a friend or family member.
Another less used and somewhat disputed method to treat depression is Electroconvulsive Therapy or ECT. It is typically used for patients with severe depression that have failed to respond to medications and psychotherapy. Essentially, while a patient in under anesthesia, small seizures are electrically induced into the brain, with the goal of reversing some of the effects of mental illness (Sadowsky, 2017). ECT treatments have been around since the late 1930s and were often used in mental health facilities as ways to control unruly or misbehaving patients. Many changes and improvements have been made to the method in the last 80 years however it still garners some controversy today.
A clinical trial was conducted at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City, NY using the Fisher Wallace Stimulator?®. The trial was a success and the study was published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease in 2015. The portable stimulator device is connected to a sweatband like apparatus that goes around the forehead. It is said to comfortably stimulate the brain regions that are responsible for an individual’s mood.
The trial involved two groups: one using the actual device and one using a placebo device. Both were to wear the device for 20 minutes a day for 2 weeks. Many patients using the actual Fisher Wallace device reported a decrease in depressive symptoms with no adverse effects compared to the group using the placebo device (Fisher Wallace, 2018). According to the Fisher Wallace website, their stimulator has been recently approved by the FDA and is currently for sale in Europe (2018).
One of the first links that comes up every time depression is typed into a search engine is https://www.mentalhelp.net. It offers various free hotline numbers that someone who is suffering can call to seek help as well as statistics and facts. It does a great job of showing anyone who opens the page that depression is a common mental illness that affects millions of people and that it is nothing to be ashamed of. I also really like the fact that the website states in big bold letters If you are experiencing thoughts of hurting yourself or others, call 911 immediately. It does not say seek help from a family member, doctor, or therapist because they are not always going to be available, but 911 and emergency services are always going to be just a call away.
Another great website I found is for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. I went to their support group page, https://adaa.org/supportgroups, and it offers dozens of pages of support groups across the country. It offers a link for free online support as well as a search engine to narrow down support groups in certain states and cities.
I never understood why those who suffered from depression could not just snap out of it. I thought that if they just got up and pushed through, everything would get better. I thought that whatever it was that they were sad about could not be that bad. But then I went through it myself. It is so much more than being sad and upset, it is all consuming and affects everything a person does from the time he wakes up in the morning to the time he goes to sleep at night. Depression is a serious mental illness that so many people suffer from all around the world. Everyone is susceptible to depression and the illness deserves more recognition and more understanding than it currently has.