HERE ARE 10 IMPORTANT THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DEPRESSION
1. Depression is a pervasive and persistent sadness or low mood, causing feelings of low self-esteem, and loss of interest or pleasure in enjoyable activities. It is disabling to people. It impacts one’s sleeping, eating, work, school work, mood – everything. Anti-depressants alone help 33% of people, but 67% also require counseling with a professional therapist, counselor, or psychologist. About 20 million people suffer from some form of Depression in the United States today, and about 10 million are crushed by Major Depression. 15% of people will suffer from Depression at some point during their lives. Young people and the elderly are most at risk. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from a major depressive episode during their lifetime.
However, when those suffering from Depression are able to get the professional and medical help that they need, about 80% will improve significantly within just a few weeks. There are a number of effective medications, and even effective forms of counseling or therapy that can make a very positive improvement in a person’s life.
2. Depression with its hopelessness and emotional pain sometimes leads to self-injury. This can range from cutting to suicide attempts. Intentional self-harm is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States according to the CDC. That’s more than the numbers of deaths from alcoholism, or Parkinson’s disease. Over 41,000 people died last year in the United States at their own hand because of depression. In the state of California (2013) over 4,000 people ended their lives intentionally due to Depression.
Self-injury/suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for teenagers. So please take seriously any young person who begins to talk about death or threatens suicide. This is not just some “attention seeking” to dismiss. Get your teen help today.
3. Depression is the #4 cause of disability world-wide. These are people losing “years of healthy life” because of Depression. Around the world there are an estimated 350 million people suffering from depression today. Depression impacts people of all nations and nationalities, ages and genders, demographics and social positions. The World Health Organization sees the rate of depression growing world-wide and estimates that it will be the 2nd highest medical cause of disability within fifteen years – second only to HIV/AIDS.
4. Of the millions of people suffering from Depression, only a small fraction will ever seek treatment from their doctors, counselors, or even pastors. Only about 33% of people suffering from depression will ever ask for help from a professional.
But of those who do seek help, the great majority – over 80% – will improve significantly in just a few weeks. So husbands, if your wife is depressed, please take her to your doctor today for a physical. Parents, if your teenager is depressed, please take him or her to a doctor for a physical examination and evaluation today. Help is just around the corner.
5. Depression often has biochemical factors, and hormonal factors involved. Neuro-transmitters such as norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin are often decreased, and depending on how each is affected, the symptoms can vary. For example, if norepinephrine is decreased then often people will become slow-moving and experience a great loss of energy. If Dopamine levels are decreased, then often people will become unable to experience pleasure or joy. And as Serotonin levels are decreased people will often lose any sense of “well-being” and begin to experience a great sense of grief, or guilt, or loss, or shame. Both medications, and cognitive therapy, can help improve brain performance and mood.
And for about 20% of people who suffer from depression, a physical examination from their doctors would reveal that the cause of the depression is actually a poor functioning Thyroid, and the symptoms of the depression could be treated with Thyroid medication.
Between 30%-40% of people diagnosed with a Major Depressive episode will improve significantly with just one intervention: antidepressant medication. This indicates that there is at least one “sub-type” of Depression that is just biologically based and responds very well to medication alone.
However, 60%-70% of people with Depression have a more complicated problem that will not respond to just medication alone, and need the help of a counselor/therapist or pastor to work through all of the pieces of the puzzle.
6. Repeated stressful events can trigger depression. Often Depression is triggered by the release of stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol following a particularly stressful life event. These stress hormones act to lower the levels of the neurotransmitters described above and can bring on Depression.
Yet one stressful event, as hard as it may be, typically doesn’t bring on Depression. What research has found is that a string of highly stressful events is usually involved – usually taking four or five major events that ultimately build up and finally trigger a Depressive episode. Learning to deal with the stressful events in your life right now can help people to avoid greater problems in the future.
Can anger be a part of the problem? Or unmet expectations? Or the pain of rejection or abandonment? Yes, most certainly these can contribute to the release of these stress hormones and at some point lead to Depression. Other problems include worry, fear, and anxiety. Unforgiveness can play a huge role in Depression. And so can chronic pain. In fact, these emotions are all processed in the same area of the brain, and can “reinforce” each other, and make each of these emotions, or the chronic pain, even worse.
7. Grief, loss, rejection, or abandonment before the age of 10 is a significant risk factor in teen or adult depression. Stress is the intersection of psychological factors and biological factors such as brain performance and development. A young brain is not able to deal with stress in the way that an adult brain is, and highly stressful situations can impact brain development now, and future brain performance later in life.
Studies have shown that the loss of a parent prior to the age of 10 years old significantly increases the risk of a Major Depressive episode later in life. This loss can be from death, divorce, abandonment or rejection.
8. The most common feature of depression is the loss of ability to feel pleasure. This is a neurological deficit. There is no joy in holding a baby, no beauty in a Tehachapi sunset. Just the color gray.
9. Other common features include early morning waking, hopelessness, worthlessness, negative thinking, and often self-injury from cutting to suicide.
While some with Depression want to just stay in bed all day with the shades drawn, that is not as common as those who are agitated all through the night – barely able to sleep at all – and then wake up early and just kind of putter around the house unable to relax at all.
Feelings of helplessness about the things of today, or hopelessness about the future, are common in Depression. People begin to feel worthless, and will believe the lie that their life has no purpose or value to anyone. “I would be better off dead, and no one would care…” is a common thought that torments the mind and often leads to some degree of self-harm. Please do not just dismiss these thoughts or comments by your loved one who is depressed. Please get them help today.
10. Like adults, about 10% of teenagers are suffering from Depression. Teenagers with Major Depression are often described as becoming negative and antisocial – withdrawing into their rooms and only interacting with a computer game. Feelings of wanting to leave home or wanting to run away will increase. There may be a strong sense of not being understood and approved of by parents, siblings, or peers. And, frankly, their life-style is neither understood nor approved of by others.
What is the leading cause of Depression in teenagers? Rejection. The rejection from the break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or the rejection from the break-up of his or her parent’s marriage, or the rejection suffered from physical or sexual abuse as a child. The pain of these situations is the leading cause of Depression in teenagers.
Parents, let me encourage you to get your teenager a physical examination first, to rule out a variety of potential causes of Depression with your teenager, and perhaps to consider beginning a trial of antidepressant medication to smooth out the situation. And then please get your teenager some counseling therapy based on Cognitive-Behavioral principles to help them to both change the way they view life, and also to improve their mood and social relationships. But please don’t put this off – call your doctor today.
Feel free to email us, phone us, or text us today at (661) 972 – 5953. We use Skype to meet with people anywhere around the world. You can find us in Bear Valley Springs using our map of Tehachapi.
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Dr. Douglas Cowan Psy.D., LMFT is a licensed professional marriage and family counselor in private practice in Bear Valley Springs, just outside of Tehachapi, CA. He is a Christian therapist who holds a doctorate in psychology, a masters degree in marriage and family therapy, and provides professional counseling services to a wide variety of clients. Learn more at http://DouglasCowan.me/about-douglas-cowan/. Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., MFT has lived in Tehachapi since 1988 and has helped hundreds of people in Tehachapi, Bakersfield, and the Antelope Valley over the years as a therapist-counselor and also as a pastor. Grab your free copy of his seminar notes on “Understanding Depression” or visit his website at DouglasCowan.ME. For more information call Dr. Cowan at (661) 972-5953.