Depression: We Call It “The Blues”

Scott Sulak
Change For Good,® Inc.

 

“It is the fourth leading public health problem in the world; yet, only one in every three suffering from depression ever seeks help.”     ~ National Institute of Mental Health

Today, too many Americans are intolerant of any type of mental illness, especially depression, which is often dismissed as some sort of moral failure. In a recent poll by the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly half of all respondents stated that depression was a “personal weakness” – certainly not a health problem.

If you suffer from depression, you are not alone. Depression strikes about 17 million American adults each year – more than cancer, AIDS or coronary heart disease, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Many famous people through history have suffered from depression:  Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Robert Schumann, Ludwig von Beethoven, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, Vincent van Gough and Georgia O’Keefe, Jimi Hendrix and
James Dean.

Okay, so depression is common and people are intolerant, but what is it?

The word “depress” comes from the Latin word “depressus:” to press down, low lying. The opposite word in Latin is “incito:” to excite, spur, inspire, increase, hasten or urge on. When we feel the feelings of “incito,” we are upbeat, joyous and motivated. Our brain is stimulated accordingly, and we produce a natural substance known as seritonin. This is the way that we naturally can feel a sense of wellness. The happier we are, the more seritonin we produce; the better we feel. Extreme states such as euphoria, excitement, laughter and sexual arousal will always produce an abundance of seritonin. We are always our best and feel our best when seritonin is abundant. This is “incito.”

Depression is the opposite of “incito.” When we are depressed, we are experiencing the absence of the essential ingredient, seritonin. Our system reacts by feelings of doom and gloom. We are experiencing “depressus:”  low laying and pressed down feelings.

So far, nobody has been able to produce a pill that contains seritonin; however, the recent generation of psychotropic “anti-depressant” drugs attempt to correct the problem. These are referred to as SSRI drugs (Selective Seritonin Reuptake Inhibitors). As the brain produces seritonin, you feel good. If you are depressed, the brain absorbs the seritonin very fast, and you do not feel the effects of the lift you would normally get from it. The SSRI blocks (inhibits) the absorption (reuptake), and you are allowed to feel the effects of your own naturally occurring seritonin. In this case, you are feeling good because your brain is swimming in its naturally occurring seritonin. That is the theory anyway.

The ongoing debate in mental health is this:

Is the reason a person gets depressed because they are chemically imbalanced and, therefore, they think depressed thoughts?

OR

Is the reason a person gets depressed because they are thinking the wrong thoughts and, therefore, they become chemically imbalanced?

THAT is the million-dollar question.

For decades, this question has divided the mental health community. Those on the side of drugs for a better planet have fought on behalf of more and better drugs, while the rest of us have fought for better ways to treat depression using the latest methods in behavior modification and therapeutic methodology. It would seem that neither side is giving in.

The Couch; well, not anymore

Make an appointment these days with a psychiatrist and don’t expect to lay back on a couch pouring your heart out about your childhood. Don’t even sit down. It only takes a few minutes to prescribe the latest and greatest SSRI. “Come back and see me in 90 days, and we will see how you are doing. Nice to have met you. Was it Jane? Oh, sorry, Janet. Good day to you. Sorry to hear that you are not feeling well. Good luck.”

We are not trying to be overly cynical, but it seems that seeing mental health patients without knowing their backgrounds, childhoods, basically their life story, and hoping that somehow these pills they are taking will “bridge the gap” into a cure is just pure fantasy. What people need is a way to understand their life. They need a way to put things in perspective and keep them there. A bottle of Zoloft or Paxil simply won’t cure the patient. It will just mask the symptoms.

As a clinical hypnotherapist, I have treated hundreds of people over the years that suffer from some form of depression. They have been to the doctors, taken the meds and never got better. Some of them only saw their psychiatrist two or three times a year. Some of them only saw their family doctor to get help with their feelings of depression; they never saw anyone to discuss the thoughts they were having. It is like wiping the oil off the floor of the garage and never thinking about finding the leak in the engine, just hoping it will go away.

You can “treat” depression with drugs, but you cannot “cure” it. Cognitive and behavioral therapies are found to be more effective than simply pharmaceuticals alone. In fact, a 1992 study by a Yale professor found that 100 patients with severe depression when treated with pharmaceuticals alone, only 29 would eventually recover. Forty-seven were found to recover with a combined treatment of therapy and pharmaceuticals, and 47 were found to recover simply using therapy alone. Success if often found in blending transpersonal therapy and subconscious reprogramming such as hypnotherapy. This can help the patient understand the core issue that is causing the depression to begin with. Also, learning self-hypnosis and meditation can be helpful in overcoming the condition.

What Causes Depression?

Patients who have had serious bouts of depression usually cite a stressful life event as the precipitating factor for their illness. Recent loss of a loved one is the most frequently reported precipitant of acute depression, but all major (and even minor) losses cause grief. Losing a spouse through divorce or death is a major risk factor for depression in anyone anywhere. Traumatic events, such as abuse, or even natural events, such as earthquakes, can cause severe immediate or delayed depression from which recovery takes a long time. Most people are able to cope with the emotional pain and eventually move beyond it without becoming chronically depressed. The existence or absence of a strong social network of family, friends or both also has a major positive or negative effect, respectively, on recovery.

Suppose you are going to entertain the idea that the depression you feel comes from the result of thinking depressing thoughts, which then accelerates the absorption of seritonin, which makes you “feel” depressed. Your next question will be:  Why do you think those thoughts, and how can you stop it? Good question.

If you think thoughts that depress you, chances are that they have to do with:

A. Something that happened to you in your past (i.e., childhood, relationship, death, trauma, etc.) or;

B. Something you perceived to have happened in the past or something that might happen in the future.

The feelings of depression are simply a byproduct of the thought process. If you know what the issue is and you still feel depressed about it, more than likely you feel helpless. The more helpless you feel, the unhappier it will make you. It is a vicious cycle.

If you don’t know the issue, it is even worse. Then, you are struck by a feeling of depression, and you don’t know why. Somewhere in the subconscious mind is a thought or a thought process that you lose your energy to. When that happens, you are simply struck by the feeling of somber or helpless thoughts without understanding you have a valid reason for feeling that way.

All of these feelings have an original thought. An original thought is one that predates the feeling of depression. In hypnosis, a trained professional can trace the feeling back to the original thought. Whether you know why you are depressed or not, you can get to the root of why it happens. Then, using subconscious transpersonal therapy, these thoughts can be transformed, and over time you can release the feeling of depression.

Gentle Inquiry

As a starting point, you can begin the journey on your own. Get a pen and three pieces of paper. Write the words “past,” “present” and “future,” one at the top of each of piece of paper. Divide each page in half vertically, creating two columns. Write the words “good” and “bad” at the top of each of the columns. Start with the “past” one first. Begin writing a list of good and bad things that happened in the past. Start with your earliest memories. Watch and feel for feelings and visions. Circle the ones that create a reaction, and then move on to the “present.” List all the good things happening in your life and the bad things. Again, be sensitive to what makes you feel bad or depressed. Finally, move on to the ”future.” Anticipate what might happen in the future, good or bad. Circle the hot spots. After this exercise, you will have an idea of what turns your thoughts to those of doom and gloom.

Next, begin to use your creative imagination to re-script what you would have wanted to do in those situations. If you use self-hypnosis, you can create a mental awareness that will allow this to take place with greater ease. Think of ways you could have reacted or taken action. Allow the creative mind to talk to those involved and come to some sort of acceptable resolution, even if that means telling someone off or forgiving someone.

Afterward, make notes on a fourth sheet of what you did to change your mental imagery. Keep all your notes, as this may come in handy later. If you wind up going to see a professional, bring these notes with you. You may have been
able to shortcut the process.

Depression is like a storm. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. If you find yourself feeling depressed, always remember that this is a momentary thing, and it will pass. Convince yourself that this is not how life will be, just how it is right now.

Tips on Avoiding Depression

1. Learn how to relax: Take some meditation classes or buy some self-hypnosis audiotapes. You need to learn how to relax your mind and body, especially when you are feeling depressed.

2. Train your body: Take some yoga or tai chi classes. Learn about energy and how to shift your body into different states.

3. Watch your diet: Reduce caffeine and sugar. Learn how to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Sometimes just eating right can make a difference.

4. Prayer: If you are inclined to follow a religious or spiritual path, get back to the idea of asking for assistance in your healing from a higher source.

5. Exercise: If you are a sufferer, you NEED endorphins, and the only way to get them is through exercise. This is a MUST for anxiety sufferers.

6. Affirmations: Buy a book on affirmations and start re-framing your life by repeating affirmations every day.

7. Rituals: Set up some daily rituals designed to keep healing a focus. For example, light a candle and repeat several affirmations and then listen to some soft music or an audiotape which
helps you relax.

8. Visualize: See yourself each day as a person who is healing and give yourself some coaching about how good you are doing. Be a coach to yourself. Believe in YOU!

9. Be Proactive: Seek help, read books, stay action-oriented. Don’t just give in to depression. There IS a solution for you. So, don’t give up.

10. Sleep: Be sure you get plenty of restful sleep. However, if you find yourself sleeping too much, get out and connect with friends and relatives. Don’t bury yourself indoors alone.

Are You Depressed?
·Emotions: Do you feel ineffably sad or cry a great deal?
·Appetite/Weight: Have you gained or lost weight? Do you binge or overeat?
·Sleep: Do you have chronic insomnia or excessive sleepiness? Are you tired all
the time, regardless how much sleep you get?
·Anger: Do you experience outbursts of complaints or shouting? Have you been
feeling resentful and angry?
·Outlook: Have you lost interest in hobbies or activities that you formerly
enjoyed?
·Libido: Have you lost interest in sex?
·Self-Esteem: Do you feel worthless, unattractive, inappropriately guilty?
·Concentration: Do you have a hard time concentrating? Are your thoughts muddy or foggy?
·Anxiety: Do you brood, have phobias, delusions or fears?
·Restlessness: Do you have trouble sitting still?
·Muted Affect: Do you have slow body movements and speech?
·Suicide: Have you thought you’d be better off dead?

According to the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, a typical episode of a major depressive disorder lasts at least two weeks and includes most of the symptoms listed in the section above.
Undiagnosed Depression

Most people do not realize they are depressed, rather they just internally criticize themselves for various residual results (i.e. for being lazy, not taking care of their health, etc). If you feel you are depressed, seek professional help if it persists. Always see a mental health professional concerning depression. The family doctor will mean well, but all he or she will do is prescribe medicine, which will only mask the greater problem. The gentle use of hypnotherapy can provide a wealth of information as to the reason for your feelings.

Depression is a disorder that costs this country dearly. The Federal government estimates the cost of all types of depression is $43.7 billion each year — $12.4 billion in medical, psychiatric and drug costs; $7.5 billion in depression-related suicide; and $23.8 billion in work absenteeism and lost productivity, according to the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association.

Interesting Facts About Depression

Headaches: One study reported that nearly half of people with chronic tension headaches met criteria for either anxiety or depression.  It wasn’t clear whether depression preceded or followed the onset of headaches.

Depression in Women: At any given time, five to nine percent of women are depressed, compared to two to three percent of men. In one study, nearly half of all women surveyed had experienced depression at some point in their lives, and over half of those who suffered from it had sought treatment. As many as 23 percent of all adult women have had one major depressive episode in their lifetime.

Depression in Men: Depression is not rare in men. In fact, prepubescent boys are more likely than girls of the same age group to be depressed. One interesting report suggested that men are more apt than women to mask their depression by
using alcohol, which may result in a lower reported (but not actual) incidence of depression in men.

Children and Teenagers: Experts estimate that two percent of children and between four and eight percent of teenagers suffer from depression. The highest incidence occurs in girls after puberty, although depression before puberty is more likely to occur in boys.

Thyroid Disease: Thyroid disease can cause depression.  It may even be misdiagnosed as depression and go undetected.

Anxiety Disorder: Chronic depression is a frequent companion to anxiety disorders. In one study, up to 96 percent of patients with depressive disorders experienced concurrent anxiety. More than two-thirds of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a common anxiety disorder, also suffer from depression. Sleep abnormalities are an integral part of depressive disorders, with more than 90 percent of depressed patients experiencing insomnia.

Three Types of Depression

The three main categories of depression are major depression, dysthymia and bipolar depression (sometimes referred to as manic depression).

Major depression tends to be a chronic, recurring illness. An individual episode may be treatable – the majority of people who meet criteria for major depression end up having additional episodes in their lifetime.

Unlike major depression, dysthymia doesn’t strike in episodes, but is instead characterized by milder, persistent symptoms that may last for years. Although it usually doesn’t interfere with everyday tasks, victims rarely feel like they are functioning at their full capacity. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, almost 10 million Americans may experience dysthymia each year.

Finally, bipolar disorder cycles between episodes of major depression and highs known as mania. Bipolar disorder is much less common than the other types, afflicting about one percent of the U.S. population. Symptoms of mania include irritability, an abnormally elevated mood with a decreased need for sleep, an exaggerated belief in one’s own ability, excessive talking, and impulsive and often dangerous behavior.

An Herbal Alternative?

St. John the Baptist’s birthday is celebrated on June 24. It is also around this time that the pretty yellow flowers of St. John’s Wort, the plant named in his honor, bloom in Germany. The plant may be more than just beautiful. Hypericum, the concentrated extract of flowers and leaves, is thought by some to be effective in treating depression. St. John’s Wort is the most-prescribed anti-depressant in Germany; however, in the United States, it is not an approved drug. Many health food stores in this country sell it as a dietary supplement, but FDA does not allow any anti-depressant claims because it has not been proven to be a safe and effective drug for this use.
Cultural Views
It is interesting to look at how another culture views depression. Let’s take a look at a passage from Sangye Khadro’s book How to Meditate to gain a better understanding of how Buddhists view depression.

“Depression is a dark, heavy, unhappy state of mind, self-centered and lacking in positive energy.  It can be a chronic problem – a habitual response to difficulties – or the side-effect of an unfortunate experience, such as an illness or the death of a loved one. In any case, it is caused by the mistaken thinking that exaggerates the negative aspects of your personality or a particular situation and ignores the positive side.

Depression concentrates on a problem and blows it up out of proportion.  Our thoughts spiral downward. We feel the situation is hopeless with no possibility of improving. We feel sorry for ourselves, seeing our ego at the center of a
sad story, and we have little or no energy to share with others. Not only are we unable to take care of ourselves, we bring others down with us.

We all have the tendency to be depressed at times. We are not perfect, and life doesn’t always go smoothly. We make mistakes, and we don’t have control over what comes our way. When we are unable to accept these problems cheerfully as natural aspects of life or deal with them skillfully, we become depressed. Of course, the pain we experience is real, and the problems need to be taken care of.  But sinking into depression is not the answer – it only deepens and complicates our unhappiness. The best solution is to analyze our thought patterns to see how we interpret the situation and try to recognize where we go wrong. Gradually, we can learn to catch ourselves and look at things more positively and use our natural wisdom.”

Self Image

It is important for you know that you are not a bad person, a weak person, or a guilty person because you have depressive feelings and/or thoughts. Most importantly, depression is never your fault. It is a serious disorder that impairs your ability to function in your everyday activities. While depression may be created due to the way you interpret your thoughts, those are learned behaviors that can be modified and ultimately corrected. Be patient, the storm will pass.
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