Living with depression
Mental illness is an ongoing and controversial source of debate. Psychologists and doctors must consider how it should be treated, while the philosophers out there question whether a mind can even get ill. However, be it an illness or not, depression is a serious and unavoidable affliction which is incredibly hard to deal with since no pill, injection or operation can provide an instant remedy. There are no visible symptoms and most people will fail to notice or refuse to believe that someone they know is depressed.
The origins of depression are numerous, but it is important to remember that not everyone who suffers these ’causes’ will become depressed and much depends upon the ingrained mindset of the individual. Traumatic experiences from the past can lead to depression later in life. These include abuse (physical, sexual, emotional), losing a loved one, witnessing an accident or death or fighting off a life-threatening illness. Some surprising events are found to incite depression, including marriage, graduation and getting a new job, while other periods are more predictably difficult such as getting divorced, being extremely ill, losing a job or retiring. Often it is a case of not recovering from the hard times, through which friends and family were there for support but over time they have lost the motivation and energy to stay positive in the face of depression. The following isolation deepens the depression making it even harder to cope with.
While most illnesses come with physical symptoms, depression is harder to recognise unless the sufferer frequently cries and is easily distressed, dramatically gains or loses weight, or reports pains which usual treatment does not cure. It is only through talking to a doctor or psychiatrist that a patient can be diagnosed and directed towards relevant treatment. People with depression experience a variety of mood-related symptoms, including feeling perpetually sad, anxious, helpless, guilty, worthless or just empty, taking no pleasure from their usual activities. Other symptoms include sleeping excessively or not at all and overeating or the total loss of interest in food. These effects are detrimental to health and well-being, further increasing the feelings of depression. It is extremely difficult to live with someone with depression as there is almost nothing to be said or done which seems to help. Outbursts and suicide threats are extremely distressing for close friends and family, who often back away for self-preservation reasons, making the depressed individual feel even lonelier, hopeless and miserable.
So how does anybody escape this vicious circle of loss, grief, depression and isolation? Initially, sessions with a psychiatrist or counselor can help alleviate some of the tension by talking through a troublesome period. It may help identify a cause which had not previously been considered but was always under the surface. However, it is not a way to find somebody or something to blame, since every person must take some responsibility for their situation, or they cannot hope to get out of it. Some doctors prescribe drugs containing serotonin, the happiness chemical, which relieve the feelings of sadness. These are not a permanent cure and should be accompanied by some form of psychotherapy which can help alter negative thought patterns and improve peoples coping methods, leading to an overall improvement in well-being rather than a temporary and false dose of happiness. Ultimately, if an individual really wants to feel better, they will take the guidance and treatment seriously and work hard to develop a new perspective and positive attitude, making their life and consequently those of their friends and family much easier. There is no immediate solution but immediate action will set the ball rolling towards a better future for everyone concerned.