Depression – NIMH

Image: Winged Figure by Abbott Handerson Thayer

Winged Figure by Abbott Handerson Thayer

What Is Depression?

Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad, but these feelings are usually fleeting and pass within a couple of days. When a person has a depressive disorder, it interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her. Depression is a common but serious illness, and most who experience it need treatment to get better. Continue reading

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alt.support.depression FAQ Part 2 of 5

Image: The Sorceress by John William Waterhouse Part 2 of 5
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**Causes** (cont.)
– What initiates the alteration in brain chemistry?
– Is a tendency to depression inherited?

**Treatment**
– What sorts of psychotherapy are effective for depression?

**Medication**
– Do certain drugs work best with certain depressive illnesses? What are the guidelines for choosing a drug?
– How do you tell when a treatment is not working? How do you know when to switch treatments?
– How do antidepressants relieve depression?
– Are Antidepressants just “happy pills?”
– What percentage of depressed people will respond to antidepressants?
– What does it feel like to respond to an antidepressant? Will I feel euphoric if my depression responds to an antidepressant?
– What are the major categories of anti-depressants?
– What are the side-effects of some of the commonly used antidepressants?
– What are some techniques that can be used by people taking antidepressants to make side effects more tolerable?
– Many antidepressants seem to have sexual side effects. Can anything be done about those side-effects?
– What should I do if my antidepressant does not work?

Causes (cont.)
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Q. What initiates the alteration in brain chemistry?

It can be either a psychological or a physical event. On the physical  side, a hormonal change may provide the initial trigger: some women dip into depression briefly each month during their premenstrual phase; some find that the hormone balance created by oral contraceptives disposes them to depression; pregnancy, the end of pregnancy, and menopause have also been cited. Men’s hormone levels fluctuate as deeply but less obviously.

It is well known that certain chronic illnesses have depression as a frequent consequence: some forms of heart disease, for example, and Parkinsonism. This seems to be the result of a chemical effect rather than a purely psychological one, since other, equally traumatic and serious illnesses don’t show the same high risk of depression.
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in School-Age Children

Image: Carnation, Lilly, Lilly, Rose by John Singer Sargent

Carnation, Lilly, Lilly, Rose by John Singer Sargent

Introduction

“You’re lazy.” “You’re stupid.” “I know you could do better in school if you just tried.” “Why can’t you calm down?” Although most children hear at least one of these questions and/or comments at one time or another, children who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (also known as ADHD, AD/HD or ADD) hear them all the time – from parents, peers, teachers, even strangers. In the past, children with this disorder have been labeled by their parents and teachers as troublemakers or underachievers, by their peers as weird. Teenagers who have ADD often indulge in criminal behavior or drug and alcohol abuse. The medical community used to label them as brain-damaged.

Children with ADD lack some of life’s essential coping skills. They can’t pay attention, can’t sit still and have trouble fitting into the structure of their school and family. They may be forgetful, disorganized, impulsive, and hyperactive. Continue reading

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You Can’t Fight Depression on Your Own

Image: Winged Figure by Abbott Handerson Thayer

Winged Figure by Abbott Handerson Thayer

Two things happened today that made me want to pound my head against a wall, Charlie Brown-style. The first was that I got an email from a woman who said that she is suffering from severe depression, but that friends and family want her to try to “talk herself out of it”, and not get involved with medication and therapy. Now, it is not unusual for me to get an email from someone who either (1) feels they should be able to handle their own depression without treatment (2) feels that someone close to them should be able to handle their depression on their own, or (3) is being talked out of seeking treatment by family or friends. These emails never fail to raise my blood pressure a few notches.

The stress from this communication was doubled when the second thing happened, which is that I went to the Psychology/Self-help section at my local bookstore. It seems to be the largest section in the store. As I looked for legitimate books on depression and its treatment, I couldn’t help but see all the “help yourself” titles in that section, as well as what I call the “Thank God I’m here to tell you what to do, you pathetic loser” books. Dr. Laura Schlessinger was telling me that I do 10 stupid things to mess up my life (only 10, Dr. Laura?), John Roger and Peter McWilliams were telling me that I couldn’t afford the luxury of a negative thought (gee, and I was having so much fun spoiling myself with those negative thoughts), countless others were telling me that if I just bought their book and put some effort into it, I could be happier, sexier, smarter, successful and more fulfilled. When it came to depression, there was no shortage of advice. Apparently I can embrace depression, use it as a tool for self-discovery, and run it off (at the same time I’m running off those belgian waffles, I guess – how handy). By this time I was way past pounding my head against a wall, and into the Yosemite Sam stage, in which I want to jump up and down and swear uncontrollably. Continue reading

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Postpartum Depression

Breakfast in Bed by Mary Cassatt

Postpartum depression is the cruelest form of depression, coming when it does. Your most joyful (albeit totally sleep-deprived) time becomes your most torturous. After I had my son, I was certainly sleep deprived, but my overwhelming emotion was wonder and absolute content. My parents told me that I was a natural mother. Certainly taking care of my son came much more easily than I had expected, and I had less self-doubt than I had anticipated.

Of course, with my history of depression, I went back on antidepressants right away (I decided not to breastfeed, since I also had to immediately start taking the medication for my Multiple Sclerosis again). I didn’t want to lose one minute of my time with my son to depression, and I knew that a mother’s depression could affect her infant. Luckily, I didn’t have one moment of postpartum depression. I didn’t even suffer from the “baby blues,” a milder form of postpartum depression, that usually starts a few days after the birth. The baby blues generally lasts less than 2 weeks, and is thought to be caused by the hormonal change and loss of endorphins after the birth. Continue reading

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