This post is an excerpt from my book Depression Solutions.
Depression can be disabling, and when its victims receive either no treatment or the wrong depression treatment, their lives can quickly spiral out of control. Often, the story doesn’t end well for people not fortunate enough to get the treatment they need. Some people languish for years in misery and despair. Countless others endure an impoverished quality of life, never knowing true peace and contentment, never achieving their full potential. And we can never lose sight of the high mortality rate associated with mental illness, much of which can be attributed to suicide.
Suicide is a preventable health problem. Yet, every year, around 33,000 people in the U.S. die by suicide; in fact, suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in the general population. Every 42 seconds someone attempts suicide. Every 17 minutes an attempt is successful. For every completed suicide, there are 8 to 25 attempted suicides. I’m not sharing these statistics to cause alarm. But more to educate that more than 90 percent of those who committed suicide had a diagnosable psychological disorder, most commonly — and perhaps most disturbingly — a depressive disorder or substance abuse disorder. These disorders are treatable; and those deaths were preventable.
How does it ever go so far? If you trace the arc of these tragedies, you’d find one common thread: The treatment wasn’t working, or there was no treatment at all.
Complications with depression
Symptoms, when left untreated, tend to escalate. Over time, they last longer and become more severe. A person who might currently be subclinical for depression (i.e., doesn’t meet the full diagnostic criteria for the disorder) is at risk for developing a full-blown clinical disorder. And with any disorder, as symptoms progress and worsen, it becomes more difficult to treat, which means that recovery will take even longer.
Further complicating matters, roughly half of those with one mental disorder also meet the criteria for two or more disorders. Severity of symptoms is strongly related to co-morbidity (co-occurrence of multiple disorders). In other words, the co-morbidity itself increases the severity of all symptoms. For example, substance abuse exacerbates depression; depression exacerbates anxiety; anxiety exacerbates AD/HD.
Depression steals minds, souls and lives — sometimes overtly, and sometimes like a thief in the night…slowly, day by day, week by week. And the ripple effect can be devastating. Mental health problems lay waste to relationships and careers, wreaking havoc with what makes us most human: our emotions, our relationships, our ability to trust our judgments about those closest to us.
We humans are highly adaptable; we’ve had to adapt to survive. We tend to adapt to our symptoms and come to believe that this is simply how life must be, or at least, this is how our lives will be. We forget what it felt like to feel good. We fall victim to our own cognitive distortions — we lose the ability to objectively evaluate ourselves, a symptom which often manifests as low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, and guilt. We slip into a persistent negative feedback loop; constantly circling our personal misfortunes, misinterpreting neutral or trivial daily events as yet more evidence of our personal defects, perhaps even assuming responsibility for negative situations that are completely beyond our control.
In a troubled mind, thoughts, beliefs and fears get blown out of proportion so easily that it becomes harder to recognize that those distortions are just a byproduct of depression. The person begins to believe that no one loves them; after all, how could anyone love someone so worthless? And often, “the problem” is never discussed, never acknowledged, never treated.
The stigma of depression treatment
Unfortunately, the stigma that has sometimes been attached to depression hasn’t made it any easier. Some people who suspect that they need help don’t seek it for fear that acknowledgment will cost them their jobs or relationships, that they’ll be perceived as “weak” or hopelessly flawed. It’s no wonder that so many people who suffer mental health problems have avoided seeking treatment, bravely continuing to deny, avoid, marginalize or rationalize their symptoms — both to others and to themselves.
In the past, stigma not only deprived people of the treatment they desperately needed, but also deprived them of dignity, and of the joy of fully participating in society. But the good news is that stigmatization is gradually dissolving. Today, nearly 70 percent of Americans say they wouldn’t be concerned if someone found out they were seeking help from a mental health professional.
The modern mind-body view of psychological disorders as a combination of physical and psychological dysfunction has helped reduce the stigma. And destigmatization, fortunately, has increased the number of people who want to seek treatment.
Get help for yourself or your loved one
To learn more about my book or about how I can help you with depression treatment, contact me today. Call now, or just fill out the contact form and press Send.