Of the many different mood disorders, depression is the most common, and one of the most misunderstood. While modern research indicates that brain chemical imbalances cause depression, many people still believe that chronic depression indicates a weak personality or character flaw. This makes seeking help for depression difficult, as people hesitate before admitting this "weakness" to family, friends or doctors. Imagine the devastation and suffering if people hid a major illness such as cancer from the world. When you know more about what's wrong you can make it right. 

Mood disorders—especially depression, are very common. Chances are that someone you know—or you yourself—suffers from depression. And the majority of depressive disorders go untreated. Learning to recognize the symptoms of depression may help those you love get the help they need.

Symptoms of Depression
    • persistent sadness or unhappiness 
    • lethargy 
    • loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities 
    • irritability 
    • sudden change in appetite 
    • disruption of normal sleep pattern 
    • physical discomfort 
    • difficulty thinking or concentrating 

    • thoughts of suicide or death. 

The death of a loved one, health problems, financial stress or other traumatic life events can trigger a variety of depressive mood disorders. In these instances, there is an identifiable trigger associated with the onset of the depression disorder. Some people suffer from what is termed chronic depression, also called recurrent depression. With chronic depression, the individual goes through depressive episodes with periods of time in between when the symptoms of depression seem to disappear. Chronic depression can be a lifelong struggle.

There are different kinds of depression, the most common being manic which means the person affected swings from a peak so high where they feel invincible to one so low they wish they were dead. The next is chronic depression where the person never hits a high like that, they stay so low predominantly that when they think they are high, they have usually only hit the mood most people would consider normal. 
When a family member is suffering from depression in any form, it is important to realize that this does affect the whole family. Everyone in the household feels the repercussions of it. Children are affected because they sense the moods of those they are close to. They don't understand when someone is depressed and doesn't want to play with them or act the way they usually do. Young children will often blame themselves for the "bad mood" they think someone is in, thinking they did something wrong to cause it. When they get snapped at for no reason, or are ignored they begin to feel upset themselve,s thinking they can never do anything right. And this will happen with children of all ages, not just teenagers. 

The spouse or significant other will spend most of their time feeling guitly, thinking they should be able to fix it or provide all the support that person needs to recover. Often they feel responsible, like they didn't love enough or do enough to prevent the person from feeling down. Frequently they will go out of their way to try anything to support this person. A great attitude to have, since support it very important, however, we all need to understand that depression is an ILLNESS and just like Diabetes or Hemophilia it needs medical treatment. 

Help the person you care about get the help they need. Make sure they know that you won't think any less of them for needing to see a doctor or go into a hospital for awhile. 

Make sure they take any prescribed medications on time everyday even if you have to act as the "at home" pharmacy and dispense them yourself at the proper times so they don't forget. Encourage them to continue with any recommended therapies or doctor's appointments from home, make it as important to your whole family as it is to the person afflicted with depression. 

The hardest part about dealing with depression and getting help is usually admitting there is a problem. That goes for anyone in the family and not just the predominant sufferer. Explain to your children that they may not always understand the mood swings or frequent doctor visits, but it is normal for them to get upset about it and it is ok for them to talk about it. Make sure they know that feeling depressed because someone else is suffering from depression is perfectly normal. Hiding their feelings because they are afraid of upsetting the patient will only make things worse for both parties. 

As the spouse or significant other admit your feelings of rejection, responsibilty, guilt, resentment or anything else that is piling on your chest. Building them all up won't help you deal with anything and you certainly can't help and support them when you are harboring these emotions. Most importantly, know that it is normal to feel this way. Don't feel guilty for these emotions. It does happen to everyone who goes through this. Remember it is okay for you as well as any children involved to see a counselor or therapist too, so you can work through your emotions and learn to deal with them. They can also teach you how best to be supportive of the depressed person and how to recognize the early signs of another serious bout. 

Don't feel like you can, or have to, deal with serious depression on your own. There are health professionals and clergy out there who can help with an open mind and heart. You may have to do some digging and weeding, but you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to give it your best shot. Sometimes it makes all the difference in the world to have a supportive neutral person to buoy you when you need it the most. Don't hide from the individual - be sure to tell them exactly what and who you are, what medications and therapies you are currently on, etc. Your good health and happy life depend on it. You should also have a medical workup done by a medical professional. It may well be that your hormonal therapy needs to be adjusted to give you relief from the depression, as sometimes an improper dosage of estrogens can trigger depression. Also be aware that many prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can create or aggravate depression, so have those checked by a pharmacist as well.

Take stock of your diet. Too much caffeine or too much sugar can create a depression, or worsen the chronic phase, when you come down off of that sugar or coffee high. And stay away from alcohol! Alcohol is a depressant. Add the two and you have a nuclear bomb inside. Aspartame (Nutrasweet) has also been identified as worsening, and possibly causing, bouts of depression and other neurological problems. Eat a healthy diet, and you will find that handling depression is somewhat easier. Recently it has been proven that allergies to certain foods may cause or aggravate conditions such as chronic depression. See an allergist to determine if this may be the actual root of your problem. Low levels of calcium, B6, and B complex have been linked to depression, as a shortage of any one of these, or all, severely affects the nerves. Those taking hormone therapies often have a shortage of B complex vitamins and calcium in their daily diet.

Exercise regularly and get outside in the sunshine. Exercise helps the body to eliminate toxins, and the adrenaline you get from even mild exercise can lessen the severity of an attack of depression. Sunlight warms the body and the soul. Your body can't make use of vitamin D without it, and a deficiency of this vitamin has been linked to some forms of depression. If you are taking something that keeps you out of the direct sun, sit or do mild exercise in a shaded area outside for a few minutes each day. You will notice the difference. Inside, try using full-spectrum lighting to help synthesize vitamin D and uplift your spirits. It has been proven to help, especially for those diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

There are herbal therapies that can help you manage chronic depression. Again, these are meant to be aids, not crutches. Don't try to use them in place of prescribed drugs without careful adjusting. In other words, don't throw away your Prozac today to start taking an herbal therapy tomorrow. That is too big a shock to your system. Wean yourself gradually from one to the other. Do so under the guidance of a health professional, and it will be easier for you. Some people are not suited to herbal treatment, depending on the severity and causes, so be prepared to go back to the synthetics if necessary. It may not be desirable to you, but, it is more important that your depression be properly managed. And there is a possibility that you can combine herbal and synthetic therapies in this case, or that as the depression is brought under control you can then switch to herbal therapies. It depends on each individual's particular body and medical history. Most people, however, find that they do better on the herbal therapy, once it has built up enough to do its job.

Drug therapy with the antidepressant nefazodone HCI combined with a certain kind of talk therapy offer relief from chronic depression much more effectively than either therapy alone, report researchers at this week's American Psychiatric Association meeting


Clinical Trials of two non-drug treatments for Chronic Depression. 

Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Depression
(Amazon Books)
Features nine contributions on the latest research on the much misunderstood topic of chronic depression, including discussion of the most recent advances in treatment approaches.

When the Blues Won't Go Away: New Approaches to Dysthymic Disorder and Other Forms of Chronic Low-Grade Depression
(Amazon Books)

Novel Chronic Depression Treatment Study Evaluates Serzone

Flower Essences Help an Actress in her 
Battle with Chronic Depression

Chronic Depression - Treating and Managing
Medicinal Herb Information

Zoloft Lifts Chronic Depression

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Although this website describes depression symptoms, it is meant to be used as information only—not as a diagnosis. Any suspected depression should be evaluated and controlled by a medical professional. Please, consult your doctor if you believe your might suffer from depression. Do not rely on advice from anonymous contacts you initiate from any web site.

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