What Is Depression?

By Rob

"I feel like I can't do it anymore.   There's just too much pressure.   I just want people to leave me alone; let me sleep for a while.   I hate school.   I hate sports.   I hate everyone.   It's not worth it...life's not worth it.   A couple pills and it could all end..."

This is how I used to feel.   Since 9 th grade I've had depression. As with so many other kids it went unnoticed.   I did everything to cover up how I was feeling inside.   I thought, "Maybe if I just forget about it, it will go away."   I was wrong.   I blew up.   I cried and thought of killing myself on the spot.   I couldn't take it anymore.   There was so much anger, stress, and sadness, and I didn't know how to deal with it.   I broke down crying in my coach's office one day because I got kicked off the baseball team and he had no idea what was going on.   This was the straw that broke the camel's back.   At first, all I could do was cry.   After about 10 minutes of tears, I finally told my coach how I was feeling.   I told him that every day I had to think of a reason to live.   I told him I didn't want to deal with it anymore.   He was the first person I shared my thoughts with.   I still remember how he responded.   The first thing out of his mouth was, "I had no idea.   I thought you lived the greatest life of anyone in this school."   Then he just listened while I told my real life story; the life that I covered up.   When I was finished we both just sat there.   After a long silence he finally said, "You need to get some help..."

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Depression is a long-term or short-term feeling of sadness and usually has physical symptoms associated with it.   This is the clinical definition given by the National Institute of Mental Health in their article, "Depression."   Everyone feels sad at some point and it can last for a while.   It's part of being human.   That's why it is difficult to diagnose depression.   Depression is an ongoing sadness that changes the way you physically function and the way you think.   Millions of Americans are diagnosed with depression, with thousands more every day, and this is why it is such a pressing issue.   What people don't know is that there are many kinds of depression.   The two most common types are atypical depression and bipolar disorder.   I was diagnosed with major depression and acute bipolar disorder.   What does this mean?

According to the National Institution of Mental Health, major depression (also known as atypical depression) is the most common form of depression.   Over 25% of the population of depressed people (18.8 million) has this type of depression.   That's about 4.5 million Americans.   I found that 10% of college students have depression.   I found this interesting because I thought there would be more college students with depression.   Maybe there are and they just haven't told anyone.   The Journal of Affective Disorders states that some of the symptoms include constant sadness, loss of weight or overeating, low self-esteem, loss of interest in once-favored activities, fatigue, oversleeping, waking early in the morning, and irritability.   I showed all of these symptoms when I was diagnosed.   Females make up 70% of atypically depressed people.   This is the only form of depression for which doctors have been able to find conclusive evidence of the gender differentiation.   Prozac and tricyclic antidepressant imipramine are two drugs that are used to cure atypical depression.   Therapy also plays a large part in curing the patient.   I currently take 3 different medications that are just like Prozac and tricyclic antidepressant imipramine.   My doctor, Dr. Diane Wells, said, "You'll be taking this medication throughout college and maybe for the rest of your life.   It doesn't make you abnormal or different.   You just have a chemical imbalance and the medication will fix that."   It made me feel better knowing that the medicine was going to make me feel better.     

I asked Dr. Wells about bipolar disorder and she said, "Bipolar disorder can simply be described as a severe change in emotion, from one end of the spectrum to the other.   It is a quick change in mood or energy that affects physical actions."   Some symptoms are aggression, denial, lack of concentration, and spending sprees.   I have always had a lot of rage built up inside me, and all my friends know this.   If they ever said anything that I didn't like I would flip out and start yelling or become violent.   Most of the time I got angry with guys because the testosterone would be flowing and neither of us would back down.   This really scared me because I didn't want to be the bully type.   I guess this is why I have more girl friends than guy friends.   On the other hand, my friends will tell you that I can be the nicest guy ever.   I listen to their problems and I'm there for them.   When my depression became known I tried to blame my parents because of some of the events that I witnessed from my childhood.   There was a point last year that I didn't talk to them for 4 months.   The only time I was at my house was at night, so I had a place to sleep.   When I started to get better I used my credit card all the time.   I bought things because buying something made me feel better at that moment.   It was a quick fix that became more of a problem than a solution.   But my credit card bills were piling up to the point where I didn't have enough to pay them.   Eventually I had to ask my parents to pay them off.   This made me feel guilty and didn't help my mental situation.  

The National Institute of Mental Health published an article titled, "Bipolar Disorder."   This article states that more than 2 million people in the country have bipolar disorder.   There is no cure to bipolar disorder, but it can be controlled with medication.   Antidepressants are generally not used because the patient can go into relapse.   Mood stabilizers are used to help those with bipolar disorder.   Many drugs, like Lamotrigine, are being experimented with and have been successful in some cases.   My doctor says I have acute bipolar disorder, which means I can take my antidepressants for atypical depression because it won't have an effect on the recovery stage of bipolar.    

What causes these disorders?   Doctors say it can be inherited through genes, but that can't be the only determining factor because people who have the variance in their DNA don't always have depression.   Dr. Wells said that there is still extensive research being conducted to pinpoint where the change is on the DNA strand.   It is speculated that there must be something wrong with the DNA to cause chemical imbalances.   There are other factors involved in causing depression.   Stress, life at work or home, at school, and in relationships can all cause depression.   When I first heard the causes I thought, "Well, everyone has these problems at some point.   Maybe I'm overreacting."   I went on for a few more years thinking that I was looking too deeply into things.   My doctor thinks that the cause of my depression was a traumatic experience at an early age.   It's true that I did have a traumatic experience as a child, but I don't know if it is the cause of my depression.  

Women get depressed about twice as often as men.   About 3 or 4 million men have depression and have a higher suicide rate compared to women, 4 times as high to be exact.   Women, however, have attempted suicide more.   Men also experience more physical side affects such as increased coronary problems.   Men and women with depressed people in their family are more likely to be depressed.   Children who've had a bad family life are more likely to be depressed also.   Neither of these reasons is true for every case, but they are the most common.   With my specific case I did have a traumatic experience as a child within my family.   I still have a hard time talking about it to this day.   When school started getting more challenging my parents were expecting more out of me.   Playing three sports a year since I was 8 and then taking every advanced class available led to a lot of stress.   The increased stress, painful memories, and an inability to share my feelings caused me to become severely depressed.  

Depression goes unnoticed by a lot of people, even doctors.   It is most difficult to diagnose someone in their teen years because mental health is so fragile in that age group.   Teens bounce from emotion to emotion because of school and new friends.   A student gets a bad grade and tells his friends he doesn't feel like going out because he's depressed about the test score.   He's not really depressed; he's just upset about not doing well, and he will probably get over it in a matter of hours.   Peers also play a major role in the way people feel.   If a guy breaks up with a girl she will obviously be sad for a while.   It's only human.   If her sadness causes her to lose sleep, sleep too much, overeat, stop eating, or feel fatigue, then maybe she's depressed.   Another reason depression goes unnoticed is the fact that most people want to be normal and fit in.   They don't want people to know what's going on at home.   It will embarrass them.   Guys especially won't tell people that they actually cry uncontrollably sometimes because they will be made fun of.   I know I didn't want people knowing that I had a bad life at home for a while.   I made my family look like the Brady Bunch.   To them, my parents never fought, we were filthy rich and we all got along perfectly.   I pulled this off for about 10 years.   No one knew a thing.   When I finally did talk about how I was feeling, the school counselor told my teachers and they treated me differently.   If I didn't finish my homework on time they gave me extensions with no penalty.   My classmates caught on and thought I was faking it, so I could get out of homework.   The only thing that did was make me feel worse.   People couldn't keep their harsh comments to themselves.   I didn't understand why people would make fun of me for having depression.   They could've asked what was going on and I would have told them the truth.   Then they would have understood.   Teens won't do that.   They look at someone and immediately judge the person and think they know everything about that person's life.   I guess I myself should have thought twice about teasing people, because it does come back to you.  

Depression awareness needs to be increased.   If more people are diagnosed with depression and treated for it, maybe there won't be as many school shootings, suicides, or murders.   Throughout my high school career I knew there was something wrong with me.   I didn't know exactly what it was, but it was there.   Of course I wasn't going to tell anyone because I thought it was the normal feelings of a high school kid and I didn't want to give anyone more problems to deal with.   As I got older it got worse and I exploded.   Instead of telling someone how I was feeling right away, I bottled it up until it shot out of me in one big outburst.   I was lucky that I didn't take it out on anyone.  

Having a coach who cared for me really helped me get through it.   He was one of my best friends.   He was someone outside my family that I could go to, basically to talk about my family.   He's always listened and if it wasn't for him I might not be here.   Noticing someone who is depressed can be a hard thing to do.   Noticing that you yourself have depression is even harder because you will do everything to deny it.   The only thing you can do is talk to someone when you feel like something is wrong.   Everyone thinks that bottling the pain all up inside will make it go away.   But it just makes you hurt more.   Also, if you know someone who might have depression you should convince them to talk to someone or let them know that you're available to listen to them.   Verbalizing feelings could save lives.   I know it saved mine.  

Sources Cited: Angst J, Gamma A, Sellaro R, Zhang H, Merikangas K. "Toward validation of atypical depression in the community: results of the Zurich cohort study." Journal of Affective Disorders (21 Aug. 2002): 39 pars. 7 Nov. 2004.   http://www.sciencedirect.com/science ; "Bipolar Disorder."   National Institute of Mental Health.   9 April 2004.   7 Nov. 2004.   pp. 5 http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/ bipolar.cfm#intro ; "Depression."   National Institute of Mental Health.   5 Nov. 2004.   7 Nov. 2004.   pp. 5 http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/depression.cfm ; Wells, Diane MD.   Telephone Interview.   7 Nov. 2004