Thursday, December 18, 2008

Depression 101

I find it very important to take a moment to discuss Depression a little bit. It is surprising to me how many people think Depression is "just someone being sad." It is WAY more involved than that, and a lot more serious, though it is something that can be over come. It is my hope through my blog, that someone else out there may realize they are suffering needlessly and can seek the help they deserve.

Depression is a serious medical illness that involves the brain. It's more than just a feeling of being "down in the dumps" or "blue" for a few days. If you are one of the more than 20 million people in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life. Symptoms can include
  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Change in weight
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Energy loss
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
Depression can run in families, and usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30. It is much more common in women. Women can also get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter. Depression is one part of bipolar disorder.

Often, people have other illnesses along with depression. Sometimes other illnesses come first, but other times the depression comes first. Each person and situation is different, but it is important not to ignore these illnesses and to get treatment for them and the depression. Some illnesses or disorders that may occur along with depression are:
  • Anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD);
  • Alcohol and other substance abuse or dependence;
  • Heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease.
Studies have found that treating depression can help in treating these other illnesses. There is help for someone who has depression. Even in severe cases, depression is highly treatable. The first step is to visit a doctor. Your family doctor or a health clinic is a good place to start. A doctor can make sure that the symptoms of depression are not being caused by another medical condition. A doctor may refer you to a mental health professional.

The most common treatments of depression are psychotherapy and medication.

Several types of psychotherapy-or "talk therapy"-can help people with depression. There are two main types of psychotherapy commonly used to treat depression: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). CBT teaches people to change negative styles of thinking and behaving that may contribute to their depression. IPT helps people understand and work through troubled personal relationships that may cause their depression or make it worse.

For mild to moderate depression, psychotherapy may be the best treatment option. However, for major depression or for certain people, psychotherapy may not be enough. Also, a study about treating depression in older adults found that those who got better with medication and IPT were less likely to have depression again if they continued their combination treatment for at least two years.

Medications help balance chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Although scientists are not sure exactly how these chemicals work, they do know they affect a person's mood. Types of antidepressant medications that help keep the neurotransmitters at the correct levels are:
  • SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
  • SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors)
  • MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
  • Tricyclics.
These different types of medications affect different chemicals in the brain.

Medications affect everyone differently. Sometimes several different types have to be tried before finding the one that works. If you start taking medication, tell your doctor about any side effects right away. Depending on which type of medication, possible side effects include:
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia and nervousness
  • Agitation or feeling jittery
  • Sexual problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Bladder problems
  • Blurred vision, or
  • Drowsiness during the day.

Why do people get depression?

There is no single cause of depression. Depression happens because of a combination of things including:

Genes - some types of depression tend to run in families. Genes are the "blueprints" for who we are, and we inherit them from our parents. Scientists are looking for the specific genes that may be involved in depression.

Brain chemistry and structure - when chemicals in the brain are not at the right levels, depression can occur. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, help cells in the brain communicate with each other. By looking at pictures of the brain, scientists can also see that the structure of the brain in people who have depression looks different than in people who do not have depression. Scientists are working to figure out why these differences occur.

Environmental and psychological factors - trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, and other stressors can trigger depression. Scientists are working to figure out why depression occurs in some people but not in others with the same or similar experiences. They are also studying why some people recover quickly from depression and others do not.
My Personal Battle
I am suffering from Depression and I have high anxiety and levels of panic. I hate being like this because it's not who I am nor who I want to be. I refuse to let a few "disconnected wires" in my brain to control my life. I've spent a lot of time over the last 21 days trying to discovery where all of this started, how long have I been suffering and what are the key elements in my life that has helped to trigger my depression and anxiety. Without getting into too much detail I can positively say that I have been battling various states of depression for over 13 years. It stems from a variety of situations including but not limited to my parents divorce, feelings of abandonment from my siblings, poor grades in school and the feelings of being a failure, unsatisfied with my "life track," the relationship I had with my grandmother when she passed away (2002), continued mourning of my grandfathers death (2006) and recent relationship issues and associated mental abuse.

As you can see from the list above, everything on the list is something I can get over and should get over. In reality, I should probably be over it now all ready but some people are incapable, move slower than others or just simply have a hard time letting go. This is a trait of depression. I hope through the continued use of medication and through regular visits to a psychologist I will be able to over come these thoughts and feelings and move on into a happier place in my life. I know that Depression is NOT a death sentence. I know that it needs to be fought. The hardest part thus far has been standing up to the fight, toe to toe with an illness that tries it's damnedest to keep me in bed. Regardless, there are people in my life who are also suffering from depression and their fight is NOT going the way it should or could. I beg them.. please... stand up for yourself. You don't have to be a prisoner... you don;t have to suffer. Get the help you desperately need and deserve. This life is worth living.

There is a process in all of this and I think I'm going to be OK. I recognized that I had a problem that was quickly getting out of control. I took control of my life and my thoughts and sought the help that I needed immediately. No, going into the hospital was NOT an easy decision to make. I spent 3 days in a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit. Why? To escape. Some people choose suicide as their escape.. I choose to fight the feelings of despair and to take control. It was a hard choice.. it took some coaching from good friends.. but I got there. I recognized I had a problem, I acted on it, I owned it, I'm fighting it and I AM WINNING IT.

This is just the beginning of a long battle... but I will win. Just like a long 100 mile ultra. I was stuck in an aid station, I rose from the ashes, stepped back onto the trail and can only do what I've trained to do... Relentless Forward Progression, on step at a time. The finish line is calling.. I can smell the barn... Full speed ahead.

The Road Im On - 3 Doors Down