Friday, April 8, 2011

Depression and How It Effects Your Well-Being

Depression is a very common illness effecting up to 25% of the world's population (roughly 340 million people*). Depression is thought to be a brain disorder, caused by abnormalities in the levels of neurochemicals in the brain.  Chronic depression is a long term disease which can effect a person's basic ability to function on a daily basis.

The cause of depression may include factors such as genetic vulnerability, physical or mental trauma, loss of a close family member or friend, chronic illnesses, multiple surgeries, or high levels of stress. Often there are multiple things which combine over time and effect the chemical composition of the brain. Treatment usually involves medication and psychotherapy. Many symptoms improve with careful monitoring of your health care.

One of the most difficult problems for a person with depression is reaching out and seeking medical assistance. The person tends to withdraw and pull away from others. Feelings of hopelessness, despair, lack of self esteem, the stigma of having a mental illness, the threat to job security or family relationships, changes in sleep patterns, appetite, concentration, loss of interest and irritability are all very real. Untreated depression can lead to personal and marital troubles, financial difficulties, and a terribly high (up to 15%) suicide rate.

I have suffered from depression most of my life but have been on medication over the last 15 years. It's been helpful understanding how my young life experiences contributed to my illness along with a traumatic auto accident, recurring surgeries and the now the resulting diseases I have.

I remember going to a seminar on Fibromyalgia and the guest speaker, a world renown specialist in the field, was asked a question from the audience. The question was, what does a person with Fibromyalgia (all over chronic pain) tend to die from? The specialist hesitated to answer and then very frankly said, suicide.

Chronic pain, whether it is physical or mental, is excruciatingly difficult to live with. When the pain is both physical and mental, it is unbelievably overwhelming and can even be paralyzing. All I can say is be kind to yourself or your loved ones suffering with depression. Your love and hope matter on a daily basis.

Try to eat a healthy diet and exercise every day, as these are equally important to obtaining optimal health. I find when I do these two things, life seems much better. Releasing endorphines through exercise is very healing for the body and mind.

Keep checking back for more tidbits of info and support.

(* figures provided by the World Health Organization, Depression as an Illness)

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