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Understanding and Overcoming Depression—Part 2

Men and Depression:

Depression is no respecter of persons; we know it has afflicted men such as Abraham Lincoln, Ernest Hemmingway, preacher Charles Spurgeon, pastor and theologian D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Charles Dickens, and football hall of famer Terry Bradshaw (just a small sampling!).

Six million men will be newly diagnosed this year, and even more will go undiagnosed; because men tend to not take care of themselves; they’re reluctant to admit their affliction, and they think asking for help as an admission of weakness. Instead of talking about their feelings, men may mask them with alcohol, drugs, gambling, irritability and outbursts of anger, bodily complaints, work-a-holism, or pornography use.

The brain’s nerve cells are damaged by the type of intense stress unique to the man’s world. It is estimated that half of the men running fortune 500 companies—have clinical depression. Half!

Even once men realize their depression, they view asking for help as an admission of weakness or a betrayal of their male identity. The result of this tendency is a hidden epidemic of despair that is destroying marriages, disrupting careers, jamming up emergency rooms, and even filling jails, costing society billions of dollars in medical bills and lost productivity ($83 billion/year).

Women in Depression:

Depression has also afflicted well known women from various walks of life, to mention just a few: Ashley Judd, Demi Lovato, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tipper Gore, Brooke Shields, Winona Ryder, Emily Dickinson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Barbara Bush, Audrey Hepburn, Akira Kurosawa, Amy Tan, Emma Thompson, and Oprah Winfrey.

One of four women suffers depression in their lifetimes. They tend to express this by increased appetite and sleep, mood reactivity, and rejection sensitivity.

High Risk factors for you include: an abusive childhood, loss of relationship or dreams; a lifestyle of pleasing others (“the disease to please”); taking on responsibilities that are not really yours, and having family-of-origin members who suffered with depression.

Self care is crucial for the woman. You need a safe place to be heard; to learn about boundaries—what’s truly your responsibility emotionally and practically; to rediscover hopes, interests, dreams, and passions—to know who you are, and have a glimpse of your destiny.

Healthy relationships with family and friends are very important to your well-being.

Hormonal fluctuations and transitions are common throughout the woman’s life, and they impact your mood! Menarche (the onset of your menstrual cycle), pregnancy, postpartum stage, contraceptive use, menstrual cycle, miscarriage (emotional and hormonal factors), hysterectomy, peri-menopause, menopause, and hormone replacement treatment—any one of these can and do affect mood.

Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depression):

Well known people with Bipolar related disorders: Winston Churchill, Lord Byron, Dick Cavett, Richard Dreyfuss, Patty Duke, Jane Pauley, Carrie Fisher, Edgar Allen Poe, Vincent van Gogh, Vivian Leigh, Brian Wilson, Charlie Pride, Kay Redfield Jamison (psychologist/author).

General Information (NIMH): This is a biologically based illness, involving differences in the brain’s biochemistry, structure, and neuro-circuitry—which cause extreme shifts in mood and energy—ranging from a high manic phase to a depressive low. It usually emerges in late adolescence or early adulthood.

General course of Bipolar (see DSM-5): Depression OR mania could show up first. Since we’ve already detailed the depressive phase symptoms, let’s look at the manic symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.

Manic symptoms last 2-6 weeks, and they include an elevated mood, irritability, inflated self-esteem, high energy, increased talking, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep, distractibility, and involvement in risky behaviors (such as increased spending, reckless driving, surprising decisions, and sexual behaviors). A manic episode is most often followed by a depressive one.

Stats regarding Bipolar Disorders: 2% of population. 70% are misdiagnosed. 60% deny their symptoms then often wait until it’s unmanageable before ever allowing treatment. 28% don’t admit to symptoms at all. 20% die of suicide (but much less die - if they have proper treatment). 85% were satisfied once they found treatment, which goes to show that Bipolar is very treatable.

Treatments: Because Bipolar Disorder is biologically based, medication is the prime consideration. But along with medication, psychotherapy and social support is needed—to educate and guide the patient and their family members.

Preventive Measures: Keep a regular routine of sleeping, eating, working, and rest. Avoid severe family dysfunction and high levels of stress. Catch the first symptoms early. A full-on treatment “team” is necessary, consisting of doctors, well-informed family and close friends, and counselors. Keep in touch with the national organizations and use their resources.

With good treatment, the odds are in your favor that you can function as well as anyone else!

A word to those suffering from Bipolar: You can still have a great life. Become an expert of your biochemistry. Think of Doctors and Counselors as your “Advisors.” Follow the healing course as faithfully as possible.

In my next blog post (Understanding and Overcoming Depression, Part 3), we will look at the treatment recommendations for depression.

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