Random Fun Fact: Butterflies taste with their feet.
Mental Health Fact: Schizophrenia often first appears in men in their late teens or early twenties. In contrast, women are generally affected in their twenties or early thirties.
Hey Guys! It’s time again for another installment of the AAYC Blog! I look forward to writing as much as I can and I do hope you look forward to reading. Feedback is always appreciated and ideas are encouraged. After all, the blog is for AAYC and it’s members!
My friend came to me yesterday and told me she was feeling really depressed. I don’t know what to do. If I tell her mom, she may get mad at me but I don’t want my friend to get hurt. She said sometimes she feels like we would be better off without her. What should I do? I really worry about her and she’s my best friend!
Torn at Tascosa
My first thought is to tell you kudos for seeking advice and help for such a complex situation. Often we become afraid and therefor do nothing. Second, if her mother could be unaware of her feeling this way, I would talk to a trusted adult such as your parent or a teacher. Ask them to intervene on your behalf. Your friend’s mother cannot help her get better or find the help she will need to feel better if she is potentially unaware of any problems. Don’t try to fix any problems. Let her talk if you feel comfortable with that, but do remember that you wont fix her problems, and that you must keep your problems separate from hers. It is a difficult thing to be there for someone who feels as your friend does, but by taking the steps you have already taken, you have shown you really care for her and you have her best interests at heart. Good luck. I have spoken to Angie and she feels now is a good time to bring up some good points and information about mental health and what we can do to help those who suffer.
Depression is a serious illness that affects anyone at any age. Men, women, and children have all been diagnosed with depression and chances are, you know someone who has had it. Depression isn’t just feeling sad. Everyone feels sad at some point. That is normal. If you lose a pet or something bad happens, it is expected that you should feel sad. But, sometimes, people feel sad without reason. Or they continue to feel sad even when good things happen. This is when a doctor may consider depression to be a cause. When a person has a depressed mood and lower activity level that persists two weeks or more with symptoms that interfere with their daily functioning, and cause distress for both the person with the depression and those who care about him or her, they can be diagnosed with depression or a major depressive disorder.
These depressive disorders have affected approximately 11.2 percent of 13 to 18 year olds in the United States at some point during their lives. Girls are more likely than boys to experience depressive disorders. Additionally, 3.3 percent of 13 to 18 year olds have experienced a seriously debilitating depressive disorder.
Depression does not affect all demographic groups equally. Data from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) show that among 13 to 17 year olds the prevalence of depression among girls is nearly 3 times as high as that for boys. Information from the NSDUH also shows that depression rates vary by age. Approximately 4 percent of 13 year olds experience depression, while rate increases to 11.6 percent among 16 year olds.
“All of these statistics are great Angie, but what can we do if we feel depressed or if we are diagnosed with depression? Can we get better?” Yes! Depression is a serious but common illness. Most people never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression. After all, it helped me.
The information I am passing on to you today is coming from the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) and can be found at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml. Another great resource for a wealth of information is DBSA. (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance). Both are great organizations with accurate and dependable information as well as resources for sufferers as well as caretakers. So moving on.
Several types of Depression exist. I personally can relate to Bipolar Disorder so if there are ever any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask, I love to help anyone understand what really goes on inside my head, not what the media wants you to think goes on inside my head!
Major depression,—severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes.
Persistent depressive disorder—depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for 2 years.
Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances. They include:
- Psychotic depression, which occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).
- Postpartum depression, which is much more serious than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.
Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, is not as common as major depression or persistent depressive disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes—from extreme highs (e.g., mania) to extreme lows (e.g., depression).
So what makes a person depressed? What causes depression? Is it contagious? (I actually had my Grandmother, may she rest in peace, think that.) The answer is quite simple. Depression is simply caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It can be triggered by other factors such as genetics, biological, environmental, and even psychological factors. Depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. Brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have shown that the brains of people who have depression look different than those of people without depression. The parts of the brain involved in mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior appear different. But these images do not reveal why the depression has occurred. They also cannot be used to diagnose depression.
Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression too. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Some genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes acting together with environmental or other factors. In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
Once diagnosed, a person with depression can be treated in several ways. The most common treatments are medication and psychotherapy.
How do women experience depression?
Depression is more common among women than among men. Biological, life cycle, hormonal, and psychosocial factors that women experience may be linked to women’s higher depression rate. Researchers have shown that hormones directly affect the brain chemistry that controls emotions and mood. For example, women are especially vulnerable to developing postpartum depression after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming.
Some women may also have a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is associated with the hormonal changes that typically occur around ovulation and before menstruation begins.
During the transition into menopause, some women experience an increased risk for depression. In addition, osteoporosis—bone thinning or loss—may be associated with depression. Scientists are exploring all of these potential connections and how the cyclical rise and fall of estrogen and other hormones may affect a woman’s brain chemistry.
Finally, many women face the additional stresses of work and home responsibilities, caring for children and aging parents, abuse, poverty, and relationship strains. It is still unclear, though, why some women faced with enormous challenges develop depression, while others with similar challenges do not.
How do men experience depression?
Men often experience depression differently than women. While women with depression are more likely to have feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt, men are more likely to be very tired, irritable, lose interest in once-pleasurable activities, and have difficulty sleeping.
Men may be more likely than women to turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed. They also may become frustrated, discouraged, irritable, angry, and sometimes abusive. Some men throw themselves into their work to avoid talking about their depression with family or friends, or behave recklessly. And although more women attempt suicide, many more men die by suicide in the United States.
How do older adults experience depression?
Depression is not a normal part of aging. Studies show that most seniors feel satisfied with their lives, despite having more illnesses or physical problems. However, when older adults do have depression, it may be overlooked because seniors may show different, less obvious symptoms. They may be less likely to experience or admit to feelings of sadness or grief.
Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish grief from major depression. Grief after loss of a loved one is a normal reaction to the loss and generally does not require professional mental health treatment. However, grief that is complicated and lasts for a very long time following a loss may require treatment. Researchers continue to study the relationship between complicated grief and major depression.
Older adults also may have more medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, or cancer, which may cause depressive symptoms. Or they may be taking medications with side effects that contribute to depression. Some older adults may experience what doctors call vascular depression, also called arteriosclerotic depression or subcortical ischemic depression. Vascular depression may result when blood vessels become less flexible and harden over time, becoming constricted. Such hardening of vessels prevents normal blood flow to the body’s organs, including the brain. Those with vascular depression may have, or be at risk for, co-existing heart disease or stroke.
Although many people assume that the highest rates of suicide are among young people, older white males age 85 and older actually have the highest suicide rate in the United States. Many have a depressive illness that their doctors are not aware of, even though many of these suicide victims visit their doctors within 1 month of their deaths.
Most older adults with depression improve when they receive treatment with an antidepressant, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Research has shown that medication alone and combination treatment are both effective in reducing depression in older adults. Psychotherapy alone also can be effective in helping older adults stay free of depression, especially among those with minor depression. Psychotherapy is particularly useful for those who are unable or unwilling to take antidepressant medication.
How do children and teens experience depression?
Children who develop depression often continue to have episodes as they enter adulthood. Children who have depression also are more likely to have other more severe illnesses in adulthood.
A child with depression may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that a parent may die. Older children may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative and irritable, and feel misunderstood. Because these signs may be viewed as normal mood swings typical of children as they move through developmental stages, it may be difficult to accurately diagnose a young person with depression.
Before puberty, boys and girls are equally likely to develop depression. By age 15, however, girls are twice as likely as boys to have had a major depressive episode.
Depression during the teen years comes at a time of great personal change—when boys and girls are forming an identity apart from their parents, grappling with gender issues and emerging sexuality, and making independent decisions for the first time in their lives. Depression in adolescence frequently co-occurs with other disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse. It can also lead to increased risk for suicide.
An NIMH-funded clinical trial of 439 adolescents with major depression found that a combination of medication and psychotherapy was the most effective treatment option. Other NIMH-funded researchers are developing and testing ways to prevent suicide in children and adolescents.
Childhood depression often persists, recurs, and continues into adulthood, especially if left untreated.
How can I help a loved one who is depressed?
If you know someone who is depressed, it affects you too. The most important thing you can do is help your friend or relative get a diagnosis and treatment. You may need to make an appointment and go with him or her to see the doctor. Encourage your loved one to stay in treatment, or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs after 6 to 8 weeks.
To help your friend or relative
- Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
- Talk to him or her, and listen carefully.
- Never dismiss feelings, but point out realities and offer hope.
- Never ignore comments about suicide, and report them to your loved one’s therapist or doctor.
- Invite your loved one out for walks, outings and other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don’t push him or her to take on too much too soon.
- Provide assistance in getting to the doctor’s appointments.
- Remind your loved one that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.
How can I help myself if I am depressed?
If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless, and hopeless. It may be extremely difficult to take any action to help yourself. But as you begin to recognize your depression and begin treatment, you will start to feel better.
To Help Yourself
- Do not wait too long to get evaluated or treated. There is research showing the longer one waits, the greater the impairment can be down the road. Try to see a professional as soon as possible.
- Try to be active and exercise. Go to a movie, a ballgame, or another event or activity that you once enjoyed.
- Set realistic goals for yourself.
- Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities and do what you can as you can.
- Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Try not to isolate yourself, and let others help you.
- Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Do not expect to suddenly “snap out of” your depression. Often during treatment for depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before your depressed mood lifts.
- Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
- Remember that positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
- Continue to educate yourself about depression.
Most of this blog has been taken from this aforementioned NIMH website simply because the information is sound and good, and I couldn’t have put together a better list. I hope this information helps and please leave feedback as well as any questions. I enjoy my time with AAYC each week via the net and I do hope to come visit soon! Remember, there is help, there is hope, and there is a better way. Take care and until next time AAYC! Oh, and give Matt a little grief for me please!