Are You Depressed, Or Just Human?

rainy-day

Depression can be devastating. Its worst form, major depressive disorder, is marked by all-encompassing low mood, thoughts of worthlessness, isolation, and loss of interest or pleasure in most or all activities.

But this clinical description misses the deep, experiential horror of the condition; the suffocating sense of despair that can make life seem too arduous to bear. Here’s something else we can say confidently about depression: it is complex. The cause is often a mix of factors including genetic brain abnormalities, sunlight deprivation, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and social issues including homelessness and poverty. Also, cause and effect can be hard to tease apart — is social isolation a cause or an effect of depression?

Unfortunately, we can make one more unassailable observation about depression: the disorder — or, more precisely, the diagnosis — has gone stratospheric. An astonishing 10 percent of the U.S. population was prescribed an antidepressant in 2005; up from 6 percent in 1996.

Why has the diagnosis become so popular? There are likely several reasons. It’s possible that more people today are truly depressed than they were a decade ago. Urbanized, sedentary lifestyles; nutrient-poor processed food; synthetic but unsatisfying entertainments and other negative trends, all of which are accelerating, may be driving up the rate of true depression. But I doubt the impact of these trends has nearly doubled in just ten years.

So here’s another possibility. The pharmaceutical industry is cashing in. In 1996, the industry spent $32 million on direct-to-consumer (DTC) antidepressant advertising. By 2005, that nearly quadrupled, to $122 million. It seems to have worked. More than 164 million antidepressant prescriptions were written in 2008, totaling $9.6 billion in U.S. sales. Today, the television commercial is ubiquitous:

  •  A morose person stares out of a darkened room through a rain-streaked window.
  • Quick cut to a cheery logo of an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, the most common type of antidepressant pharmaceutical).
  • Cross-fade to the same person, medicated and smiling, emerging into sunlight to pick flowers, ride a bicycle or serve birthday cake to laughing children.
  • A voiceover gently suggests, “Ask your doctor if [name of drug] is right for you.”

The message — all sadness is depression, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, this pill will make you happy, your doctor will get it for you — could not be clearer. The fact that the ad appears on television, the ultimate mass medium, also implies that depression is extremely common.

Yet a study published in the April, 2007, issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, based on a survey of more than 8,000 Americans, concluded that estimates of the number who suffer from depression at least once during their lifetimes are about 25 percent too high. The authors noted that the questions clinicians use to determine if a person is depressed don’t account for the possibility that the person may be reacting normally to emotional upheavals such as a lost job or divorce (only bereavement due to death is accounted for in the clinical assessment). And a 15-year study by an Australian psychiatrist found that of 242 teachers, more than three-quarters met the criteria for depression. He wrote that depression has become a “catch-all diagnosis.” What’s going on? It’s clear that depression, a real disorder, is being exploited by consumer marketing and is over-diagnosed in our profit-driven medical system.

Unlike hypertension or high cholesterol — which have specific, numerical diagnostic criteria — a diagnosis of depression is ultimately subjective. Almost any average citizen (particularly one who watches a lot of television) can persuade him or herself that transient, normal sadness is true depression. And far too many doctors are willing to go along. The solution to this situation is, unsurprisingly, complex, cutting across social, medical, political and cultural bounds.

But here are three major changes that are needed immediately: Medically, thousands of studies confirm that depression, particularly mild to moderate forms, can be alleviated by lifestyle changes. These include exercise, lowered caffeine intake, diets high in fruits and vegetables, and certain supplements, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Physicians need to be trained in these methods, as they are at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. See Natural Depression Treatment for more about these low-tech methods, or the “Depression” chapter in the excellent professional text, Integrative Medicine by David Rakel, M.D. (Saunders, 2007).

Politically, if Congress — which seems hopelessly addicted to watering down all aspects of health care reform — can’t manage to ban all DTC ads in one stroke, it should start by immediately ending those for antidepressants. Personally, be skeptical of all DTC ads for antidepressants. The drugs may turn out to be no more effective than placebos. Many of them have devastating side effects, and withdrawal, even if done gradually, can be excruciating. While they can be lifesavers for some people, in most cases they should be employed only after less risky and expensive lifestyle changes have been tried.

Finally, recognize that no one feels good all the time. An emotionally healthy person can, and probably should, stare sadly out of a window now and then. Many cultures find the American insistence on constant cheerfulness and pasted-on smiles disturbing and unnatural. Occasional, situational sadness is not pathology — it is part and parcel of the human condition, and may offer an impetus to explore a new, more fulfilling path. Beware of those who attempt to make money by convincing you otherwise.

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Weil's-new-book-availableAndrew Weil, M.D., is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the editorial director of http://www.DrWeil.com. Become a fan on Facebook. Follow Dr. Weil on Twitter. Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-weil-md/are-you-depressed-or-just_b_307734.html

Combat’s Hidden Toll: 1 in 10 Soldiers Report Mental Health Problems

Soldiers Report PTSD Symptoms and Other Mental Health Problems
 
By KIM CAROLLO
ABCNews Medical Unit
June 9, 2010

Even though he’s retired from active military duty, CSM Samuel Rhodes still suffers from deep emotional wounds.

“I had to take this afternoon off from work today because of anxiety,” he said. “And sometimes, if I’m going through a really tough time, I think about suicide.”

He spent nearly 30 years in the Army and recently spent 30 straight months deployed in Iraq where he, like many soldiers, witnessed some of the horrors of war.

“In April 2005, it started to eat me up because I started losing one soldier after another,” Rhodes said. “We lost 37 soldiers that were in my unit.”

He was in charge of the brigade of 37 soldiers, and as time wore on, the loss of life wore him down.

“In April 2007, it came full circle. I considered suicide as an option. I felt guilty about losing those soldiers, even though I had no control over it,” he said.

“And I was sleepwalking. I had to tie myself to my cot to prevent it,” he added.

Later, during his 24th month in Iraq, he was found unconscious, and doctors diagnosed him with exhaustion. At that time, the combat stress doctor told him he was also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He started explaining it to me, and I realized he was right,” Rhodes said.

And according to a new study conducted by researchers at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Rhodes’ mental health problems are common among soldiers returning from Iraq.

Between 2004 and 2007, researchers gave out anonymous surveys to four active duty brigade combat teams and two National Guard combat team three months and 12 months after deployment. The surveys screened soldiers for PTSD, depression, alcohol misuse and aggressive behavior and asked them to report whether these problems impacted their ability to get along with others, take care of things at home or perform their job duties.”A high number of those that had symptoms of PTSD and depression also reported some aspect of impairment,” said Jeffrey L. Thomas, one of the study’s co-authors. “The range was about 9 to 14 percent.” Depression rates ranged from 5 percent to 8.5 percent.

But by using a less stringent definition of PTSD, they found between 20 and 30 percent of soldiers showed symptoms of PTSD, while they found between 11.5 to 16 percent of them were depressed.

Full article, please go to:  http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/10-soldiers-fought-iraq-mentally-ill/story?id=10850315&page=2

Men & Women are Different!

There is a difference in the way men experience depression and the women do.  It is quite remarkable to look at both.

How do women experience depression?

Depression is more common among women than among men. Biological, life cycle, hormonal and psychosocial factors unique to women may be linked to women’s higher depression rate. Researchers have shown that hormones directly affect brain chemistry that controls emotions and mood. For example, women are particularly vulnerable to depression after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes, along with the new responsibility of caring for a newborn, can be overwhelming. Many new mothers experience a brief episode of the “baby blues,” but some will develop postpartum depression, a much more serious condition that requires active treatment and emotional support for the new mother. Some studies suggest that women who experience postpartum depression often have had prior depressive episodes.

Some women may also be susceptible to a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), sometimes called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a condition resulting from the hormonal changes that typically occur around ovulation and before menstruation begins. During the transition into menopause, some women experience an increased risk for depression. Scientists are exploring how the cyclical rise and fall of estrogen and other hormones may affect the brain chemistry that is associated with depressive illness.

Finally, many women face the additional stresses of work and home responsibilities, caring for children and aging parents, abuse, poverty, and relationship strains. It remains unclear why some women faced with enormous challenges develop depression, while others with similar challenges do not.

How do men experience depression?

Men often experience depression differently than women and may have different ways of coping with the symptoms. Men are more likely to acknowledge having fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in once–pleasurable activities, and sleep disturbances, whereas women are more likely to admit to feelings of sadness, worthlessness and/or excessive guilt.

Men are more likely than women to turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed, or become frustrated, discouraged, irritable, angry and sometimes abusive. Some men throw themselves into their work to avoid talking about their depression with family or friends, or engage in reckless, risky behavior. And even though more women attempt suicide, many more men die by suicide in the United States.

Summary

It is imperative that we see the difference, especially if we are helping each other out in this particular area.  We need to “see” depression in order to effectively minister to the depressed.

For me, personally, I see a lot of men with anger, an anger that is constantly moving  just below the surface.  Very often, this anger is like an iceburg, most of it is submerged, but it is real, and is often a way that a man experiences his clinical depression.

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Source for much of this: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

Site Update

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, some good news.  NetworkedBlogs gives out rankings for the top 50 blogs on a variety of subjects.  I honestly have paid it no mind, because this is not about having good numbers or popularity.  I just want to be faithful.

Broken Believers was positioned #3 in a list of 50 under the topic of Bipolar Disorder and #1o under the subject of Depression.  I look and shake my head in amazement.  I did not imagine this.  I have simply challenged myself to write a good, honest blog that would touch Christians in a sensitive area in their lives.  Sometimes its been difficult, but most of the time it is a joy.

As of today, Tuesday, November 24th at 11:30 AKST we have had 1,387 hits.  We started counting Sept. 1. These are distinct hits and don’t include me as I meander through the site.

I guess we tapped into a real need thats out there.  Yesterday, I went ahead and purchased our new domain name, and moved the site.  We are now at brokenbelievers.com.  (Don’t worry, the old domain name will work for awhile.)

On a personal note; since I left teaching at ABI, and stepped out of being a full-time pastor, I thought I was finished.  All I have ever wanted to do is be a Pastor, and to have that taken away was like having an arm or a leg amputated.  I know I will never be a senior pastor again.  But, I’m ok with that (sorta).

If I can serve you in any way, please email me, or send it through the “post” option where it says “Leave a Comment”.  Thank you for your notes of encouragement, I save every single one of them.  (I delete the negative ones, however, lol)