Did you know that depression is the leading cause of suicide in the U.S.? Approximately 34,000 people each year die from suicide each year in our country. As an average that’s 680 people in each state or almost 2 people a day, each day, every day. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot to you but most of these deaths are completely preventable if only family and friends of the victim knew how to recognize the warning signs in time.
The recent death of Robin Williams has brought attention to this topic and all around the globe healthcare professionals are seeking to educate the public as to the dangers of severe depression. The truth is that there are many misconceptions about this illness and most people think that depression is something that will eventually go away on its own. This simply isn’t true. Depression is a serious illness that can strike anyone at any time and medical attention is necessary for anyone suffering from this disorder. Here are some things that you need to know.
Depression is NOT the same as being sad
Although feeling sad or depressed is common amongst people suffering from depression, many times the person may not know that they have a serious problem. In fact, it is often the case that the person does not feel particularly sad and even friends and family members don’t always notice any unusual behavior before they take their own life. Depression is better described as a feeling of “emptiness” or “hopelessness”. A depressed person may simply feel that there is no valid reason to “go on” with their lives and ending it all seems a valid and logical choice. It is this feeling of “disinterest” that leads to suicide. In the depressed person’s mind it just makes sense to stop living.
Depression is Surrounded by Stigma
Many people that suffer from depression fear that others will consider them to be weak and often times will not discuss their feelings with others; even those closest to them. This is completely untrue. An illness that affects the nervous system and chemistry of the brain is as real as it gets and is no less serious than a broken limb or even heart disease.
People Think that Depression is Caused by Circumstance
This seems logical but it is one of the most misunderstood aspects of depression. We expect someone to be depressed after the loss of a loved one or some other tragedy in their life but these feelings will go away in time and the cause is quite obvious. Clinical depression, however, does not occur as a result of something bad happening to the person and it can last for a long, long time. Some people are depressed for years and this is not caused by circumstance, it is an illness that can occur even in the best of times.
Depression Affects only the Mood, Right?
While the very definition of depression tells us that it is an emotional disorder, the truth is that many times it can affect the physical body as well. It is quite common for the sufferer to experience such symptoms as shortness of breath, muscle aches, indigestion, fatigue and many other symptoms. Depression is not only a problem experienced “in the head”.
Will Patients Need to Take Medication the Rest of Their Lives?
This is not always the case but it does depend on the individual. Many times medication is used in conjunction with different types of therapy and the truth is that almost 40% of persons that take antidepressants will not benefit from their use anyway. For those persons that do use medication it is possible to be weaned off of them with medical supervision in the future if they are no longer necessary so the myth that one will need to take medication forever simply is not the case.
If you or someone that you know has symptoms of depression you owe it to them (or to yourself) to seek medical attention. There is no shame in illness and everyone deserves a chance to be happy.