Family Works [May 19, 2019]
Speaking on …
Family Works [May 19, 2019]
Speaking on Depression
“My whole life sucks!” “Your whole life sucks?,” I echo his words.
“Surely you can recall a time that was good.”
“No, not a single moment. Nothing good has ever happened to me.”
Such is the reality of depression. Depression colors every facet of the depressed person’s life. In fact, depression can be so pervasive and invasive that it not only colors our present thoughts with gray, but also colors our memories with gray. For this reason, a truly depressed person has difficulty recalling happier times.
Basically, there are three primary types of depression: major depression, dysthymic depression (also called chronic depression) and manic-depression (also called bipolar depression). Each has similar and distinguishing characteristics.
The prevailing similar characteristics of all three depressions commonly include:
(1) a depressed mood most of the day,
(2) diminished interest in most activities,
(3) poor appetite or overeating,
(4) insomnia or hypersomnia,
(5) feeling restless or fatigued,
(6) feeling worthless,
(7) excessive guilt,
(8) poor concentration or difficulty making decisions,
(9) feelings of hopelessness,
(10) recurrent thoughts of death.
Although sharing several characteristics in common, each type of depression has several distinguishing characteristics.
(1) Major Depression: Like the flu, major depression has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the majority of cases, there is a complete remission of symptoms. Unlike the flu, major depression often lasts from a few weeks to months. If it is left untreated, this type of depression tends to recur. Unfortunately, each recurrence tends to last longer and is more debilitating than the one before.
(2) Dysthymic Depression (Chronic Depression): Dysthymic depression is a low-grade, long-term depression that can go on for years. A minimum of two years of depression (one year for children) is required to make this diagnosis. Some people have had this type of depression most of their lives as they describe themselves as usually feeling “down in the dumps.”
It’s as if a little black cloud seems to follow them everywhere. Notably, there is a prominent presence of low interest and self-criticism, often seeing oneself as uninteresting or incapable. Because these symptoms have become so much a part of the individual’s day-to-day experience, treatment is seldom sought.
Even family members accept that this is the way it’s been and always will be for the depressed family member. “How can he change the way he is?”
(3) Manic-Depression (Bipolar Depression): Unlike major or dysthymic depressions which are unipolar (meaning the person is always down), in this type of depression the individual fluctuates from one emotional pole (down) to the opposite pole (up) in unpredictable, rapid swings.
While at the “up” end of the pole, the person is on a high where he maintains days or weeks of mania which elicits extreme elation, unreasonably grandiose thoughts, and inappropriate, sometimes destructive actions and then swings to the “down” end of the pole where the person assumes the characteristics of major depression.
Significant strides have been made in the treatment of depression. Should you or a person you know be struggling with depression, seek help from a trained professional. With help, life can become better than you ever believed possible.
Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.
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