Depression isn't as simple as you thought it was.
You'd be surprised at everything you DON'T know.
Depression isn't just about being unhappy about something or feeling blue, it's a legitimate and very serious medical condition with many emotional, physical, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms. It isn't inevitable for anyone living in the modern world, and it also doesn't mean that you're a bad or weak person if you suffer from depression.
No one knows exactly what causes depression, but it's most likely caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
In an article in Medical Daily, journalist Rachel Kelly talks about her experiences with clinical depression, and what she learned about this devastating condition on her own, particularly about what doctors don't tell people with depression:
1. Depression can strike suddenly and without any warning.
You can sometimes tell when you're coming down with the flu or a cold. You start feeling feverish or achy. Unfortunately, with depression the symptoms may not be that clear and can develop gradually, even when you're undergoing treatment.
For Kelly, it was during a Christmas party she was giving at her home with friends, family, business associates, and even politicians. In the middle of being the consummate hostess, she made the mistake of taking a breath, and that's when she was overtaken with feeling as if she were on a plane that was crashing.
2. There are horrible physical symptoms that come with depression.
Although fatigue is one of the symptoms of depression, there are many more than feel just as bad, if not worse, such as migraines, joint pain, digestive problems (bloating, constipation, irritable bowels, and nausea), chest pain, and back pain.
Kelly says, "I thought I was having a heart attack — my heart was beating so wildly."
3. Antidepressants can take a long time to work.
Antidepressants don't work for everyone, and you may have to try different ones before you get the right one. Some patients start to feel less depressed after two weeks, but for some it can take anywhere from six to eight weeks to start working. That's a very long time, especially if you're having thoughts of suicide.
4. There are usually side effects from using antidepressants.
Some side effects include jitteriness, weird dreams, dry mouth, diarrhea, decreased sexual desire, weight gain, insomnia, increased anxiousness, headaches, and tremors or dizziness. Imagine going through months of side effects, only to have to change to a different antidepressant and start all over again.
5. Getting off antidepressants can be extremely difficult.
When antidepressants that affect the brain's chemistry are suddenly stopped, people may experience discontinuation symptoms like dizziness, vertigo, ataxia (problems with muscle coordination), tingling or pricking of the skin, numbness, electric-shock-like-symptoms, anorexia, sweating, vomiting, irritability, agitation, and nightmares.
Coming off antidepressants can take a very long time, too. Kelly writes, "After my second depressive episode, it took me around 18 months [to get off the antidepressants], during which time I thought of nothing else."
6. It's possible to reduce chances of having a relapse.
50 percent of people who have had one major episode of depression will relapse, and the likelihood goes up if you've had more than one episode, says Eve. A. Wood, M.D., author of 10 Steps to Take Charge of your Emotional Life. You can reduce the risk of another episode by not taking on too much, exercising, eating healthy, having a positive attitude, and taking care of your mental and physical health.
Kelly, in addition to all that, practices focusing on what one is experiencing in the moment (mindfulness), and involving herself in small acts of kindness, such as holding poetry workshops at a local prison and volunteering for mental health charities.
Depression can be frightening enough, especially if you're unaware of the consequences of your illness and its treatments. It's always better to be in the know, even if doctors are hesitant about talking about the more confusing and painful aspects of depression.
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