Depression FAQ

Depression (Frequently Asked Questions)

[Frequently Asked Questions about Depression with notes and comments by Wayno]


1) Introduction
2) What is a Depressive Illness?
3) What are the types of Depression?
4) What are the symptoms of Depression and Mania?
5) What are the causes of Depression?
6) What can be done for Depression?
7) Conclusion
8) Additional Resources

Question #1


Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are taken from:

D/Art (depression Awareness, Recognition, Treatment) Public
National Institute of Mental Health
Room 10-85
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD.  20857

Many people have heard the term "depressive illness",  but
are  clueless  to  its,   social,   physical,  and  mental
implications. People with a "depressive illness" are often
labelled  as  mentally unstable  and  unsound.  Other  very
stabbing and prejudicial  statements  are made about those
of us who suffer with depression.

Few people would recognize  the impact  depression has not
only on  an individual,  but upon  those closest to him or
her. I'd like to take the next few moments to discuss this
silent disease.

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Question #2
2) What is a Depressive Illness?


A depressive illness is a "whole-body"  illness, involving
your body,  mood,  thoughts, and behaviour. It affects the
way you  eat and  sleep,  the way you feel about yourself,
and  the way you think about things.  A depressive illness
is NOT a passing  blue mood.  It is NOT a sign of personal
weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away.
People  with  a  depressive illness  cannot  merely  "pull
themselves together"  and get  better.  Without treatment,
symptoms can last for weeks, months or years.  Appropriate
treatment however,  can help over 80 percent of  those who
suffer from depression." (page 1)

So you  see,  depression  affects a  person in many  ways.
Often others who  are around  a  depressed person,  really
don't have a clue how the depression affects the person in
all areas of his or her life.

Having a  working  definition  of a  "depressive illness",
lets move on to the different:

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Question #3
3) What are the types of Depression?

Depressive illnesses come in different  forms,  just as do
other illnesses, such as heart disease.

Major  Depression  is  manifested  by  a  combination  of
symptoms that interfere with the  ability to work,  sleep,
eat,   and  enjoy  once  pleasurable   activities,   these
disabling episodes of depression can occur,  once,  twice,
or several times in a lifetime.

A  less severe type  of  depression,  dysthymia,  involves
long-term chronic symptoms that  do not disable,  but keep
you from functioning at "full steam" or from feeling good.
Sometimes people  with  dysthymia  also experience  major
depressive episodes.

Another  type  of depressive  illness  is manic-depressive
illness,  also called  bi-polar depression.  Not nearly as
prevalent   as   other   forms   of   depressive  illness,
manic-depressive illness involves cycles of depression and
elation or mania. Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic
and rapid,  but must often they are gradual.  When in the
depressed  cycle,  you can have any or all of the symptoms
of a depressive illness.  When in the manic cycle,  any or
all symptoms listed under mania may be experienced.  Mania
often affects thinking, judgement, and social behaviour in
ways that cause  serious problems and  embarrassment.  For
example unwise business or financial decisions may be made
when in a manic phase." (page 2 - 3)

Soo,  how  can you determine  if  you  have  a  depressive
illness?  There is  a guideline  of  symptoms which I will
describe next.

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Question #4
4) What are the symptoms of Depression and Manina?


Not everyone  who is depressed  or manic experience  every
symptom.  Some people  experience  a  few symptoms,  some
many. Also, severity of symptoms varies with individual.


o    Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood.
o    Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
o    Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
o    Loss  of interest or pleasure in  hobbies and
     activities that you once enjoyed, including sex.
o    Insomnia, early-morning,awakening, or
o    Appetite  and/or weight loss or  overeating and
     weight gain
o    Decreased energy, fatigue, being "Slowed down"
o    Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
o    Restlessness, irritability
o    Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making
o    Persistent  physical symptoms  that  do  not  respond
     to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders,
     and chronic pain.

o    Inappropriate elation
o    Inappropriate irritability
o    Severe insomnia
o    Grandiose notions
o    Increased Talking
o    Disconnected and racing thoughts
o    Increased sexual desire
o    Markedly increased energy
o    Poor Judgement
o    Inappropriate social behaviour"
                (page 2)

So  you can see,  that both depression and mania,  take on
many,    varied    forms.    I   myself,    suffer    from
manic-depression.  The first step for me, was admitting to
myself,  and  others,  that I did have a  problem.  Often,
having a depressive illness, is seen as a sign of personal
weakness.  It is not. Depressive illnesses seems to run in
families as we shall see in the next segment:

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Question #5
5) What are the causes of Depression?


There  is a risk for developing depression when there is a
family history, indicating that a biological vulnerability
can  be  inherited.  The risk may be  somewhat higher  for
those with bipolar depression. However, not everybody with
a  genetic vulnerability develops the illness.  Apparently
additional factours,  possibly a stressful environment and
other psychosocial factours,  are involved in the onset of

Though major depression seems  to occur  generation after
generation,  in some families, it can also occur in people
who have  no family  history of  depression.  Whether  the
disease   is  inherited  or  not,   it   is  evident  that
individuals with major depressive illness  often have too
little or too much of certain neurochemicals.

Psychological makeup also plays a role in vulnerability to
depression.   People  who   have  low   self-esteem,   who
consistently view themselves and the world with pessimism,
or who are readily overwhelmed  by stress,  are  prone  to
depression." (page 3)

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Question #6
6) What can be done for Depression?


So what can we do? Do we admit that this illness can never
be  cured?  How  do we cope with depression?  Here's  some
guidelines that I hope will help.

o  First  find a mental health care  professional who  can
assess your symptoms and make the  appropriate  diagnosis.
If your problem is a chemical imbalance, often this can be
alleviated  by   adding   or  eliminating   the  chemicals
necessary  to  restore health.  Because  of  my own manic-
depression,  I  am  utilizing  Lithium  Carbonate  to help
control the cycling of moods from mania to depression, and
vice versa.  Lithium  is  a  salt,  and  for me,  helps to
stabilize my condition, so I don't suffer the debilitating
effects of cycling between mania and depression. You might
find  it easier to talk to  a trusted  friend,  or  clergy
(pastor). They can become your most powerful allies.

o When I am depressed,  I tend  to isolate myself from the
love,  care and  concern of others.  This is probably  the
time we need that support the most. Remember, others can't
read  our  minds.  We  need  to  tell  them  what  we  are
struggling with.  Honesty involves vulnerability,  and the
possibility of being rejected. Something we face each day.
But I've found if we never risk,  and always play it safe,
we become stagnant and never grow.  Learn how to risk with
others, in a safe, non-threatening environment.

Also, consider these suggestions:

o  Do not set  yourself difficult goals or take on a great
   deal of responsibility.

o  Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities,
   and do what you can as you can.

o  Do not expect  too much from yourself.  This will  only
   increase feelings of failure.

o  Try to be with other people;  it is usually better than
   being alone.

o  Participate in activities that may make you feel better.
   You might try mild exercise, going to a movie, a
   ballgame, or participating in religious or social
   activities.  Don't overdo it or get upset if your mood
   is not great improved right away. Feeling better takes

o Do not make major life decisions, such as changing jobs
  or getting married or divorced,  without consulting
  others who know  you well and  who  have a more
  objective view of your situation.  In any case,
  it is advisable to postpone important decisions
  until your depression has lifted.

o Do not expect to "snap out"  of your depression.  People
  rarely do.  Help yourself as much as you can, and do not
  blame yourself for not being up to par.

o Remember,  do not accept your negative  thinking.  It is
  part of the  depression   and  will  disappear  as  your
  depression responds to treatment." (page 8)

This is crucial:

"Since  depression   can  make   you  feel  exhausted  and
helpless,  you  will want  and  probably  need  help  from
others.  However,  people who have never  had a depressive
illness  may not  fully understand its effect.  They won't
mean to hurt you, but they may say and do things that do."
(page 9)

Be tolerant!

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Question #7
7) Conclusion


Finally,  "The most important thing  anyone can do for the
depressed person is to  help  him or her  get  appropriate
diagnosis and treatment.  This may involve encouraging the
individual to  stay with treatment until symptoms being to
abate (several weeks),  or to seek different treatment, if
no improvement occurs.  On occasion, it may require making
an appointment  and  accompanying the depressed person  to
the  doctor.  It  may also  mean  monitoring  whether the
depressed person is taking medication.

The  second  most  important things  is to offer emotional
support.  This involves understanding, patience, affection
and  encouragement.   Engage   the  depressed  person  in
conversation and listen carefully.  Do not ignore remarks
about suicide. Always report them to the doctor.

Invite  the depressed  person  for  walks,  outings to the
movies,  and other activities. Be gently insistent if your
invitation is  refused.  Encourage  participation  in some
activities  that  once  gave  pleasure,  such  as hobbies,
sports,  religious or cultural activities, but do not push
the depressed person to undertake too  much too soon.  The
depressed person needs diversion and company, but too many
demands can increase the feelings of failure.

Do not accuse  the depressed  person of faking illness  of
laziness  or  expect  him  or  her  "to snap out  of  it."
Eventually with  treatment,  most depressed  people do get
better.  Keep in  mind,  and keep reassuring the depressed
person  that  with  time  and  help,  he or she  will feel
better." (page 9)

It has been and  continues to be,  a  difficult battle for
me.  Each  and  every day,  seems to be  fraught  with new
frustrations.  But  I  especially take  courage from  this

John 16:33 "I  have told you these things,  so  that in me
you  may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world." (NIV)

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Question #8
8) Additional Resources


Bring Change 2 Mind

Psycom Net

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Address comments about this faq to: Wayno