Did you know that depression has been on a steady climb since 1915?
Did you know that depression is becoming more common at the age of 25?
Did you know that depression was once known as the "mid-life crisis"?
Did you know that 350 million people worldwide are affected by depression?
Did you know that many people who suffer from depression are never diagnosed?
Did you know that depression is now affecting children as young as 9 years old?
Of all the entertainment this world provides, why is it that a lot of people are depressed?
Depression is not just caused by genetics or your development growing up. Put it this way. The brain is such a marvelous design! The brain comprises only two percent of your total body weight, utilizes fifteen percent of the body's metabolism, it contains 100 billion nerve cells, has thousands of different types of neurons (compared to ten or less in other organs), and one neuron can communicate with as many as 200,000 other neurons.
The brain can withstand only so many "hits", however before you will notice any damage. Now what are these hits I am talking about? Well, I have mentioned two of them, genetics and development. I will state each one and give an example.
-- Family history of depression or suicide
-- Early puberty in girls (begin menstruation by age 11 or younger)
-- History of depression in adolescence
-- Not being raised by both biological parents
-- Suffered sexual abuse
-- Low dietary tryptophan
-- Low omega-3 fat intake
-- Low folic acid intake
-- Low vitamin B intake
-- Diet high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and sugar
-- Marked anorexia and weight loss
-- Absence of social support
-- Negative, stressful life events
-- Low social class
-- Grandparents who raise grandchildren
-- Immediate family member is an alcoholic or drug addict
-- High lead levels
-- High mercury levels
-- High arsenic, bismuth, or other toxin levels (even clorine)
-- Regular insomnia
-- Sleeping more than 9hrs/day routinely
-- Sleeping less than 6hrs/day routinely
-- Not having regular sleep hours for sleeping or eating
-- Smoker or Tobacco user
-- Heavy caffeine user
-- Illicit drug user (such as marijuana)
-- Not on a regular exercise program
-- Not regularly being in daylight 30 minutes a day
-- Rarely breathing fresh air
-- Hepatitis C
-- Recent head injury
-- Heart disease
-- Terminal cancer
-- Parkinson's disease
-- Uncontrolled diabetes
-- Postpartum severe stress
-- Premenstrual tension syndrome
-- In adequately treated thyroid disease
-- Inadequately treated adrenal gland disease
-- Any other disease that puts stress on the body
-- On low carbohydrate diet
-- On high meat or high cheese diet eating lots of rich food
-- Regular entertainment TV viewer or movie goer
-- Entertainment internet or chat internet addiction
-- Frequent sex arousal outside of marriage
-- MTV (or other rock/country music) viewer
-- Undergoing hypnosis or Eastern mediation
-- No regular Bible study or abstract thinking
-- Going against your conscience
Keep in mind that there are many other things that can be included into each category. I have Crohn's disease, and although it is not mentioned above, it is still a stress on my body. Now as mentioned, one can't change his genetics or development, so if depression runs in your family, or if you had depression as a teen, it's in the past and can't be changed. But even if you had just these two "hits" the brain can still function and not be depressed. If you had two causes in the same hit category, it still counts as one hit (such as you sleep more than 9hrs/day and don't have a regular time to eat and sleep still counts as only one hit)
The brain can withstand a total of 4 of these hits before it cannot tolerate. Any more, then depression can settle in. As noted, two of the hits cannot be changed if one has them. But the good news is all the other 8 hit categories CAN be changed.
I am not against medications for depression, sometimes it is needed. The most common treatment for depression is antidepressants. 70 percent of patients will experience improvement in their mood or other symptoms. Less than 20 percent of patients on anti-depressants feel they are "cured" or back to normal while taking medication.
The other side of the "coin" of anti-depressants -- 25 to 30 percent do not improve with any medication. 50 percent report bothersome side effects (over one-half of these quit taking their medication). Two-thirds not very satisfied with their treatment. 75 percent on medication state that depression continues to impair their social life and their work performance, as well as affect family life.
Medications do do have their place -- if not used as an ultimate solution, reserved for moderate to severe depression, should be used in virtually all cases of severe depression, definite goal should be discontinuation within 6 months to a year in most cases.
The Prozac-Like Medications (Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Lexapro, Effexor, Serzone, Celexa)
-- Improves mood
-- Decreases crying
-- Decreases hostility
-- Increases social affiliations
-- Increases impulsiveness
-- May cause "I don't care" attitude, decreasing alarm responses
The last two points above are the side affects that can occur when using the drugs. It is good that it improves mood and decreases the crying and hostility, but impulsiveness isn't a good thing as it makes one impulsive to decisions and such. Also, in creating an "I don't care" attitude, it may make the person emotionless. (A good example is when my boyfriend and I have had arguments I don't feel anything, not guilty, remorse for what is said, just empty and emotionless, like I don't care) This is not something that is good as it can create more added stress.
Again, I am not saying anti-depressants should not be taken (I may be going on some temporarily), but they should not be used as a cure-all. It is not just our genetics that cause depression. Our body chemistry can even be changed by nutrition, positive thinking, removing addictions, and changing many things in our own lifestyles. If anything, anti-depressants should be used in combination with the other changes in a person's life.
Psychologists are now realizing that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy actually helps depressive patients. CBT is at least effective as drug therapy, it has no physical side effects, makes relapse less likely, makes staying depression free more likely, and it changes brain chemistry. CBT can effectively treat depression, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, anorexia, and bulimia.
Cognition is your thoughts or perceptions. Your cognitions are the way you are thinking about things at any moment, including this very moment. These thoughts have a significant impact on how you feel. Your feelings result from the messages you give yourself. Your thoughts have much more to do with how you feel, than what is actually happening in your life. You can change the way you think about things and you can also change your basic values and beliefs. And when you do, you will often experience lasting changes in your mood, outlook, and productivity.
Research has documented that negative thoughts which always cause emotional turmoil nearly always contain gross distortions. The thoughts on the surface appear valid, but you will learn that they are irrational or just plain wrong and that twisted thinking is a major cause of suffering.
Here are some forms of cognitive distortions:
All or Nothing thinking -- Looking at things as though they're completely black or while, with no room for neutral or contrary characteristics. "This job is the worst job I could possibly have. I hate it."
Overgeneralizations -- We come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, we expect it to happen over and over again. A person may see a single, unpleasant event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. "My last two relationships ended badly: I must be completely incompetent at love."
Mental Filler -- Ignoring important facts to come up with a faulty conclusion. "Mom and Dad always paid attention to you and never to me."
Disqualifying the Positive -- Ignoring anything that might get in the way of a negative judgment. "It doesn't matter that my boss complimented my work: since I didn't get the promotion, I'm obviously a failure."
Jumping to Conclusions -- Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular we are able to determine how people are feeling towards us. "I waved to my friend on the street, but they did not acknowledge me. They must be upset or angry with me."
Mind Reading -- Making assumptions about what other people are thinking. "Everybody in the audience must think I am a complete idiot up here."
Fortune Teller Error -- Making assumptions about what will happen in the future. "All this studying won't help, and I'll fail the test."
Magnification or Minimization -- Exaggerating or understating anything about a situation. "I have to move? This is awful! This will ruin everything I have set up in my life."
Emotional Reasoning -- We believe that we feel must be true automatically. If we feel stupid and boring, then we must be stupid and boring. You assume that your unhealthy emotions reflect the way things really are. "I know I planned the event carefully, but I know something's going to go wrong."
Should Statements -- Getting upset because one doesn't have control or governance over other people's actions, random events, or basic facts of existence. "That jerk shouldn't be driving so slowly in the left lane!" "I should be able to eat cookies whenever I want to! It's not fair that my co-workers can do that and not get fat!"
Labeling and Mislabeling -- Describing something in a way that prevents it from being clearly seen and often makes it seem much worse than it is. "I'm a coward and loser, and nothing's going to change that."
Personalization -- Thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to us. We also compare ourselves to others trying to determine who is smarter, better looking, etc. A person sees themselves as the cause of some unhealthy external event that they were not responsible for. "I didn't win this contest -- they must think I am a terrible writer."
CBT is the process of changing cognitive distortions to more positive thinking. Instead of "I am dumb" the positive thought should be "I am thankful that I am intelligent, I graduated high school." CBT isn't a new idea or a new therapy.
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Philippians 4:8 (KJV)
"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7a (KJV)
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." Philippians 4:11 (KJV)
"Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man." Matthew 15:11 (KJV)
"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." Proverbs 17:22 (KJV)
Truth is, our feelings are caused by what we tell ourselves about our circumstances, whether in words or in attitudes. A lot of the cognitive distortions are misbeliefs. Misbeliefs are the cause of destructive behavior people persist in engaging in even when they are fully aware that it is harmful to them (such as overeating, smoking, lying, drunkenness, stealing, or adultery). Misbeliefs generally appear as truth to the person repeating them to himself. You will believe what you tell yourself. In emotional and mental health, what you believe is all important. It makes a difference what you believe. Other people, circumstances, events, and material things are not what make you happy. What you believe about these things is what makes you happy or unhappy. If you believe it would be horrible if nobody talks to you at a dinner party, your mental and emotional self will react accordingly. You are the controller of your happiness and your unhappiness. What you think and believe determines how you feel and what you do. If you tell yourself something enough times and in the right circumstances, you will believe those words whether true or not.
You can change the way you think. It is not an overnight process. Realistic thinking does not come naturally. It must be a conscious choice followed by a strong effort. The more balanced feelings that result will be worth the struggle and the effort. Practice, practice, practice!
You may not be able to change your genetics, or how you were raised as a child. But you can change your nutrition, your lifestyle, your sleep patterns, your addictions, and even the way you think. No situation is ever hopeless, and if you are telling yourself that, that is a misbelief. You can change. As long as you are convinced that you can't change, you won't try. There have been many people who have believed they could never change. And yet, these same people have dug in and changed their misbeliefs in spite of themselves, and the result has been transformed lives. If we do not find worth in what we are and what we have now, we will tell ourselves we are less important than others or we have less than others. Be thankful for what you have, what has been given to you, not dwell on the negative aspects of your life and what you wish you could/should have. For me, my family is most important. There are times I wish for more things, but if I really examine my thoughts, I see that I have everything I need. I have an awesome partner, two beautiful boys and another on the way, I have a roof over my head and food on my plate. Yes, I get down and wish we had more money, or that things were not as they are. But life is full of trials. To stay positive is hard, but we will grow more in strength of heart when we overcome them.
Information gathered in this post has come from the following sources:
"Telling Yourself the Truth" by William Backus and Marie Chapman, 2000
"Depression The Way Out" by Dr. Neil Nedley, M.D., 2005
"Depression Recovery Program" by Dr. Neil Nedley, M.D., 2006