Look Out For Depression
The most severe form of depression is called Major Depression. Major depression is diagnosed when a number of the following symptoms last two weeks or more. Some of its features are a loss of pleasure and interest in almost all activities. There are normally changes in appetite with weight loss or weight gain. Feelings of worthlessness, failure, guilt and inferiority can lead to thoughts of death. Suicidal thinking, planning and attempts may occur. Depressed individuals also have problems concentrating, thinking, and making decisions. They generally look sad and move like they have the weight of the world on thier shoulders, complaining of feeling tired and fatigued. They may complain of physical problems (aches and pains), report sadness, and become irritable, edgy, argumentative, angry and blame others for their own problems. Depressed people ofen withdraw from social activities and from activities and hobbies that once gave them pleasure. Insomnia (difficulty sleeping) and hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) are a common part of depression. Ocassionally, depression can become so intense that it can include mood consistent periods of psychosis in which the individual may develop false beliefs about his world.
Dysthymic Disorder is a more moderate, but still disruptive, form of depressed mood that characterized by at least two years of depressed mood that does not satisfy the requirements for major depression. Depression is often diagnosed in those who abuse and become dependent upon alcohol and illegal drugs.
Depression can be very destructive of the individuals who suffer from it and also destructive of social relationships and families. For example spouses and children of depressed people often feel their anger, negativity, and withdrawal as a lack of love and caring for them. If the depression goes on for years without treatment, as it often does, spouses feel building frustration, resentment, and anger in response to the depressed treatment they receive from their depressed mate. The result is that they frequently seek love and caring outside of their marriage and the ruinous effects of this infidelity then compounds their problems.
With proper marriage counseling and antidepressant medication (when warranted) some marriages can recover to become better than ever, but many simply fail in divorce. The same is true for couples that are not married.
The sad fact is that many of these couples never know what hit them—they simply conclude that they don't love each other any more.
The children of depressed parents (divorced, married, or not) see the same symptoms as the adult non-depressed mate, but they react differently. They often feel unacceptable, worthless, unloved and unwanted. Children also show the sad effects of constant bickering, fighting, or worse between their parents.
From this sad history frequently grows a life-time of psychological and relationship problems for these childdren who grow to adulthood and for their own children. In complex ways, with complex outcomes, untreated depression can easily become contagious across generations.
The life-time risk of Major depression, based upon community samples, is between 10% to 25% for women and 5% to 12% for men.
If you, or member of your family, or perhaps a friend shows signs of depression, talk to them about what can happen if depression is an untreated problem. Encouraged them to seek professional assistance.
God Bless, Dr. Tom