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A Look at a Complex Condition in Common Language
Science is still not absolutely sure what causes this condition, so its practitioners are deliberately vague when it comes to this subject. Here, in easy to understand terms, are several things which are obvious to every counselor and physician.
Most people understand that if you strain a muscle it will be damaged. For example, if you sprain your ankle, it will continue to work, but depending on the extent of the injury, not nearly as well.
If you insult the human brain enough, it develops a similar condition. It will continue to work, just not as well. Healing can be much slower than a sprained ankle, if it comes at all. MRI technology has proven that there is observable loss of brain mass in the frontal lobe for people who suffer depression.
How do you insult your brain? There are many ways. Traumatic events like accidents, loss of a loved one and getting fired or divorced are common insults to the brain. So are living in an abusive situation or in prolonged stressful environments. Even the physical trauma of childbirth has been shown to cause depression.
And of course there are the times when we push the limits and damage our selves. Excessive drinking, use of Cocaine, Pot, Meth-Amphetamine and other recreational drugs are big insults to the brain (literally brain poisons).
So what does it look like on the inside? You wake up in the morning and life hands you 100 decisions to make. A healthy person has done a good job with them by the time he/she goes to bed. A depressed person is able to process most, but one or two will be unsolved by the time they go to bed. They start the next day in the hole, and add more unsolved decisions to the list. The brain is weakened by the depression and cannot process choices as rapidly as needed.
Eventually, the pressure of so many unresolved issues takes its toll and begins to build up. There is a dull feeling of unease. Things that used to bring joy, now hold no interest (hobbies, family, sex).
Some people develop melancholy and have trouble motivating themselves to get out of bed or go to work or do chores. Some people begin to avoid friends and loved ones (because relationships present more choices to be made). In more serious levels, it can cause you to feel worthless and hopeless about your life. In severe cases, a person may begin to have dreams or thoughts about ending their lives to end the numbness they feel.
What does it look like on the outside?
Depression goes unnoticed for many people until it hits the Irritability Stage. Something small will happen and the depressed person will explode in anger. It is obvious to everyone that the level of reaction was too great, but not why. Most depressed persons are like pressure cookers, building up hidden stress with the inability to make choices. They feel weighted down by their unresolved problems. One more problem becomes the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.”
A second warning that is seldom missed, is when the depressed person begins to “Self Medicate”. They begin to drink more, or use illicit drugs more. The latter is dangerous because it is often hidden from the loved ones around them. The longer the problem remains secret, the more damage it can do.
A third warning sign has more physical symptoms. Because the person is carrying a large amount of stress, it begins to take its toll on the body. Some people complain about neck or back pain, long before they complain about feeling depressed. Digestive problems like constipation and or excessive gas, are byproducts of carrying around too much stress.
Self medication with alcohol or pot are common remedies chosen by people who suffer depression. They do alleviate the symptoms temporarily, but these are themselves depressants and deepen the mood. Cocaine and Meth work wonders for correcting the melancholy, but the “crash” which follows leaves the person with deeper depression. All of these chemicals will actually do further damage to the brain.
Is there help? YES!
Counselors can help the depressed person understand what is happing to them. They can help build a comprehensive treatment plan. Treatment plans may incorporate medication, exercise, nutrition, talk therapy to sort out more difficult decisions and even new lifestyle strategies.
Because Depression has had a negative stigma in the past, many people go unnoticed until other problems surface as well. One of the most common, is problems with employment. Another common one is legal problems because of anger, alcohol or drugs. Now the depressed person has a Dual-Diagnosis, and all issues must be addressed at the same time.
Whatever has brought the problem to the surface, there is help. Whether it is you or a loved one, reach out for help today.Physicians and Mental Health professionals have made great strides in understanding and treating this condition. Medications like SSRIs are not mood enhancers. Rather they work like vitamins, helping the brain process decisions faster and relieving the pressure from the inside of the brain itself. If you are watching a loved one, and notice significant changes in behavior: they don’t want to go out anymore, they no longer engage in things they used to like, they gain weight because they are eating too many carbs and moving around less, they stop caring about their appearance, they talk about themselves in discouraging terms, you should be worried and take a closer look.