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Family Guidance Blog

Death of Robin Williams Illuminates Depression as a Disease

Robin Williams 1Just as any physical illness is best treated at its early stages, depression is also best treated in its early stages.

The death of Robin Williams led many  to feel that they had lost not only an icon in the country’s entertainment culture, but also a friend that made them laugh but could also shed tears with them. Williams was not only Mork, Mrs. Doubtfire and Genie, but also Patch Adams and John Keating.

For many, however, the death of Williams brings to light not only the loss of a great comedian, actor and entertainer, but also the depths of struggling with depression.

Depression carries with it a stigma, in which those who experience depression are supposed to be different from the rest of the population. When you picture depression, it may carry a face of tears and frustration. In reality, depression can look a lot of different ways.

In the days after Williams’s death, many celebrities have used the opportunity to honor Williams by talking about their own experience with depression. Talking about depression can remove the stigma and give individuals the ability to admit to a loved one that they need help.

When individuals face a stigma attached to a mental disorder, they may be reluctant to tell anyone about their symptoms. Depression can be easy to hide at its early stages. While a person may struggle for weeks on end, they may have times where symptoms subside and they can point to these times to convince themselves and loved ones that everything is okay.

Depression may also feel lonely. If you have depression, you may imagine that only you are struggling with these types of symptoms and that everyone else has it together. However, the World Health Organization says that 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. More than half the population will, at some point in their lives, meet criteria for a mental disorder. You are not alone if you struggle with depression.

By the time help is sought, depression may have progressed in its severity and symptoms. Finding the right combination of treatment can be a trial-and-error process. Because it may take weeks for medications to affect symptoms and therapy to begin to work, the process of recovery may take time

If you have had symptoms over a long period of time, they may have escalated to a point where it is difficult to endure a long process of finding the right medication and therapy combination. As a result, it is important to seek out help as soon as it becomes apparent that low moods are becoming problematic.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, contact Family Guidance to guide you through an evaluation to determine whether treatment for depression might be beneficial. Visit the Family Guidance website to learn more about depression as well as the services and treatment options offered.

When Someone You Love is Experiencing Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health illness diagnoses, affecting nearly one in 10 adultDepression 4 Americans. Sometimes depression is mild but persistent. This is known as dysthymia. Other times depression is severe. This is called major or clinical depression. Regardless of whether the person you love is experiencing either type of depression, it can be difficult to know how to help. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Ask Questions
Try to avoid the phrase “I know how you feel”. Instead, try asking pointed questions. Your loved one may have difficulty putting their current state into words with an open-ended question like “What’s wrong?” but specific questions can be helpful. Try questions like:

  • When did you start feeling this way?
  • Any idea what might have triggered your feelings?
  • Does anything help you to feel better?
  • Does anything make you feel even worse?

2. Look for Ways to Alleviate Stress
As a friend or family member you can’t necessarily remove sources of stress, but you can look for ways to lighten some of the pressure. Stress is a major contributor to depression so lowering it will really help. Try:

  • Picking up children from school or activities or watching them for a few hours each week
  • Give a coupon for a therapeutic massage (you may have to drive them there)
  • Offer to go with them on a walk, bike ride or picnic (they may resist but keep asking since sunshine and activity are mood-elevating)

3. Speak About Their Positive Qualities
It’s easy for a depressed person to get lost in self-reproach. What can really help is a positive outside perspective on who they really are. Take every opportunity to tell them how you see them: kind, intelligent, determined, empathetic, funny or witty.

One of the best things you can do for your loved one is to suggest they talk with a professional about their depression. Counselors at Family Guidance understand all kinds of depression and know how to help your loved one find their way out. Act and speak wisely with your struggling loved one, but don’t be afraid to encourage a call for help.

Depression in Summer Could Be SAD

SAD 2A mood disorder known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a form of depression that comes and goes according to the calendar. People with SAD feel depressed at the same time every year. For most, this disorder manifests during the short, dark days of winter when a lack of sunlight dampens the person’s mood. But small minorities of Americans experience another form of SAD, called reverse SAD, and they feel blue during summer. Specialists think that reverse SAD could be caused by over-exposure to sunshine or it may be a reaction not to the sunshine itself, but to high heat.

Relation to Bipolar Disorder
The way SAD manifests itself differs depending upon whether it shows up in winter or summer. For this reason, among others, some experts have connected the condition with another mood disorder; bipolar disorder. In one sense, a person could view SAD as evidencing one end or the other of the bipolar spectrum. People with winter SAD show more of the depressive symptoms associated with bipolar while those with summer SAD evidence more of the manic symptoms.

People with summertime SAD may experience: insomnia, anxiety, irritability or agitation, hopelessness or guilt. Unlike other forms of depression which usually lower a person’s libido, people with summer SAD may actually experience an increase in sex drive. Headaches can also be a symptom of SAD.

Winter Versus Summer
The chief difference between winter and summer SAD has to do with energy. Those with summertime SAD tend to be more energetic while those with winter SAD have low energy and are uninterested in even pleasurable pursuits. Connected to the difference in activity levels is the difference in weight change. Summer SAD often leads to weight loss while winter SAD often produces weight gain.

The other big difference between the two is that winter SAD may improve with light therapy while summer SAD doesn’t get better by sitting indoors in the dark. If you find that you experience depression every summer that seems to get better when fall rolls around you may have summer SAD. This kind of disorder only improves with counseling along with possible medication. If this describes you, call Family Guidance today and talk with an expert.

Depression: It’s Not All the Same for Men and Women

Depression 6Scientific research continues to reveal that while men and women are overwhelmingly similar, there remain some key distinctives between the sexes. For example, although men and women both experience depression, it doesn’t look exactly the same for them. Here are some key gender-related differences:

Women Face a Higher Risk
Women are two times more likely than men to become depressed. The biological divide is partly due to hormonal differences between men and women. Even during fetal development men and women are experiencing differences in brain development that will affect their higher or lower vulnerability to depression.

Women Ruminate More
When women become depressed they tend to spend more time focusing on their negative emotions and thinking problems over and over in their head. This negative self-talk is called rumination and women do it more than men. When men feel depressed, they quickly find a way to distract themselves and their thoughts. This ability to redirect negative thoughts is a key skill for breaking out of depression.

Women More Vulnerable to Stress
It could be thanks to hormones, but women are more likely than men to become depressed following a stressful situation.

Women Frequently Experience Another Mental Health Disorder
It’s one of those gender injustices, but depressed women tend to experience another mental health disorder along with depression more often than men. Eating disorders and anxiety disorders in particular affect depressed women more than men.

Men Use Substances Before, Women After
Men and adolescent boys tend to ease any troubled emotions with drugs or alcohol before they actually become depressed while women tend to turn to substances after they become depressed.

Men and Women and Antidepressants
Although we don’t quite know why, but men and women respond differently to antidepressants.

Whether you are a man or a woman, depression is a real illness. And like a real illness, it can be treated. Family Guidance offers treatment for depression that can break the bonds of chronic sadness. Contact them today.

Is Depression Impacting Your Work or Academic Potential?

Depression 4If you’ve personally experienced depression or had a family member or friend with the disease, then you know it can make basic life functioning difficult. Even simple tasks like getting out of bed in the morning can be a challenge. Depression is very common and can be triggered by a number of different factors including the death of a loved one, tumultuous relationships, or even high amounts of stress. While as many as 10 percent of individuals are affected by depression, research shows that only about 33 percent of those with mental illness reaches out for help.

Some people live with depression and may not even realize it. Symptoms of the disorder can include:

  • Feelings of sadness that don’t go away
  • Sudden change in temperament
  • Lack of focus or concentration
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Inability to sleep or sleeping much more than usual
  • Eating pattern changes such as overeating or loss of appetite
  • Constant feelings of defeat or exhibiting low self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendencies, as the disease progresses

Depression doesn’t exist in a bubble; it spills over into everyday of life, impacting relationships and performance at both work and school. Depression may lead to poor grades, lost productivity and increased absenteeism. Despite the disorder being highly treatable, many individuals avoid speaking about it for fear of being judged or regarded differently by others.

Since depressed workers tend to be absent on average 1.6 more days a month than healthy employees, it pays for employers to support treatment. Findings indicate that over 80 percent of those getting treatment for depression show marked improvement with various types of therapies including counseling and medication.

Chances are, we all know someone affected by depression – maybe that someone is you or a person you love. Don’t let stigma from depression stand in the way of living life to the full. Family Guidance Center can help. If you have questions about depression or would like to visit with a member of our staff, call or click today.