Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Depression: What We Need to Know

There is a valid reason for me to comment on this topic. Last Tuesday I spend about 45 minutes on the phone with a girl that was borderline suicidal. She was not aware of that fact, but while I talked to her I realized what was happening to her and that she needed serious help. Fortunately by the time I left off talking to her she had returned home (she had run out of her house, and was at that time in a random apartment in Wymount when she called me) and she was with her husband and brother (after I called to let him know). It was a very nerve wracking experience, and because of it just wanted to comment about misconceptions of depression and mental-illness.

First: Everyone experiences ups and downs in normal life but some people have more downs than ups and sometimes the change between the two is dramatic. What determines if we have a "good day" or a "bad day" may be a combination of outside events (stress, we did poorly on a test etc.), things we eat or the weather. But for some people they have a chemical imbalance that affects how they feel and act regardless of anything they can, or can't control. For these people, there is nothing they can do to prevent the way they feel.

The main misconception here is that these people just need to "snap out of it" or "just get over it". The thing those who have to deal with this is, that they can't "snap out of it". A good analogy that I use is a cough. If some one is sick or whatever and they have to cough, it is a natural reaction of the body to some undesirable chemical or biological imbalance. It is not something they can prevent just by "snapping out of it" or "getting over it". True there are times when we create the conditions that lead to it happening (think Dr. Hirschmann's nervous cough when he is teaching), but there are times when it can NOT be prevented. Some forms of depression and mental-illness are simply chemical or biological imbalances that cannot be prevented or overcome by "will power".

Second: I want to give a disambiguation of the term psychological disorder. Everyone has "quirks", some beneficial, others cause problems and make life difficult. But if someone has a psychological condition that prevents them from functioning normally for more than one hour per day then it is classified as a psychological disorder. That's the technical definition. Now each person must be considered individually but that is the general rule. These psychological conditions may be the result of biology, chemistry, genetics or past events (abuse, substance abuse, brain trauma), the majority of which may be, or may have been beyond the control of the person affected.

If you would like a good article on this topic, or if you know someone affected by it this may be a good article to point them to, it was written by a member of the Seventy. If you have any questions you can ask me, this is a topic I have studied and researched extensively. I do this for various reasons (such as having to deal with people like my friend who is bi-polar) and because my brother is a Neuro-Psychologist and I do it so I can talk to him about his work and understand what he is doing (just as he studies physics on the side so he can understand what I am doing).

This is one of the many topics that I get frustrated by the fact the people don't, can't, don't care to or try to understand (I also get frustrated when they overreact and try to blame everything on things that are "out of their control").

1 comment:

  1. Your right Ryan. Depression is a serious thing and it is unfortunate that people who really have chronic depression are often persecuted. People can get so mad at them for never ending sadness.

    I wish I knew how to help such people better. Depression is a tricky thing. Good Post.


To add a link to text:
<a href="URL">Text</a>