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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Recovering from Depression

Image: A Coign of Vantage by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

A Coign of Vantage by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

So you have successfully come out of your depression, either because you have received treatment, or because the depression went away on its own. How can you stack the deck against it coming back? What’s the best way to celebrate this renewal of life?

Keeping Depression Away

Your enemies are stress and illness – either of these can bring on depression, at least temporarily. Your tools for fighting both stress and illness are eating right, exercising, and stress reduction. There’s a good chance that you weren’t paying much attention to your diet or exercising properly when you were in your depression, so this is a good time to get back on track. Continue reading

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DSM-IV Criteria for Major Depressive Episode

A. Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during
the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.

Note: Do not include symptoms that are clearly due to a general medical condition, or mood-incongruent delusions or hallucinations.

  • depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). Note: In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood.
  • Continue reading

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DSM-IV Criteria for Depressive Disorders

Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode

A. Presence of a single Major Depressive Episode.

B. The Major Depressive Episode is not better accounted for by Schizoaffective Disorder and is not superimposed on Schizophrenia, Schizophreniform Disorder, Delusional Disorder, or Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

Image: Flora by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Flora by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

C. There has never been a Manic Episode, a Mixed Episode, or a Hypomanic Episode. Note: This exclusion does not apply if all of the manic-like, mixed-like, or hypomanic-like episodes are substance or treatment induced or are due to the direct physiological effects of a general medical condition.

Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent

A. Presence of a two or more Major Depressive Episodes.

B. The Major Depressive Episodes are not better accounted for by Schizoaffective Disorder and is not superimposed on Schizophrenia, Schizophreniform Disorder, Delusional Disorder, or Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

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