Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Are you depressed or know someone who might be?

Many who know me, know that I suffer depression,,more so in the winter months.
One thing I have learned is this: you can't run and hide from depression.
I have gotten many emails in the past few weeks about friends, students, people all over the World asking about depression. I am not a therapist or a Doctor. I can only tell you my own personal struggle with depression, share with you what I do to help the depression.
Depression is a real illness like diabetes or any other illness. I listen to people all the time say things such as: it is all in there head, why don't they just get off the couch and go for a run or walk, why don't they eat better....and so on.
Why, why, why???
Until you have experienced depression yourself of have been with someone who suffers depression it is very hard to understand.
Below is some information that I hope will help you today. I am here for all of you as your friend.
Please share with all of us the ways you deal with depression or ask other questions on how you can help someone you know that is suffering from depression.



There are several signs and symptoms that help a healthcare professional determine if a person is suffering from depression. In general, a person must have five (or more) of the symptoms listed below during the same two-week period.
These symptoms must represent a change from the way he or she used to function. In addition, at least one of the symptoms must be either
#1 depressed mood or #2 loss of interest or pleasure in activities.
Common symptoms of depression1 1. Depressed or irritable mood most of the day—nearly every day
2. Loss of interest or pleasure in activities (such as hobbies, work, sex, or being with friends) most of the day—nearly every day
3. A sudden change in weight (weight loss without dieting, gaining more than 5% of body weight in 1 month), or a change in appetite
4. Inability to sleep or sleeping too much, nearly every day
5. Agitation or restlessness (observed by others) nearly every day
6. Constant fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
7. Frequent feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
8. Difficulty concentrating or making decisions nearly every day
9. Frequent thoughts of death or suicide (or a suicide attempt or plan) /
Important note: If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, seek professional help immediately through your healthcare professional, or call 411 to get the phone number for the nearest local suicide hotline./ In addition to having five or more of the symptoms above, in order to lead to the diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD)This is a physician's term for a specific type of depression.

A person who suffers from a major depressive disorder must have either a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities. The person must have these symptoms consistently for at least a two-week period. Furthermore, this mood must represent a change from the person's normal mood. It should also be having a negative impact on his or her daily function, such as family, work, socializing, etc. A depressed mood caused by drugs or alcohol, or one caused by a medical condition, is not considered a major depressive disorder. Remember, only a doctor can properly diagnose this or any other disorder.
<../resources/glossary/terms_m-p.aspx>, the symptoms must cause significant distress or impair the person's ability to function.
This means the symptoms have a negative affect on how the person functions socially, at his or her job, or in some other aspect of their life. It's important to know that there are several different illnesses that can account for symptoms of depression.
Your doctor or other healthcare professional must rule out other possible causes (including other medicines or illegal drugs) before diagnosing you with depression.^
1 There are many reasons, or even a combination of reasons why a person might become depressed. These include traumatic life experiences such as the death of a loved one, certain diseases or medicines, substance abuse, hormonal changes, or a family history of depression. Sometimes the cause of depression is unknown. More often it is a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors that bring on a depressive episode.^
1 Whatever the circumstances, depression is caused by an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. Normally, these “chemical messengers” help nerve cells communicate with one another by sending and receiving messages. They may also influence a person's mood. In the case of depression, the available supply of the chemical messengers is low, so nerve cells can't communicate effectively. This often results in symptoms of depression .
Anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status, can suffer from depression. A disease that affects millions of Americans each year, believed to be caused by an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters. <../resources/glossary/terms_d-l.aspx>.
It is estimated that 19 million American adults suffer from depression every year.
Depression is not a weakness or a character flaw—it is a real medical illness. But the good news is that with proper treatment, 4 out of 5 patients will improve.^
1 People who suffer from depression are not just moody or have “the blues” for a few days. They experience long periods of feeling very sad and lose interest in social and daily activities. Many feel they have no concentration and no energy. Depression can change the way a person feels, thinks, and behaves.
* The causes of depression are not always clear. It may be triggered by an event or for no apparent reason at all. Genetics may also play a role in not providing your brain with enough serotonin. A neurotransmitter that is believed to influence mood. SSRIs help relieve the symptoms of depression by increasing the available supply of serotonin in the brain. <../resources/glossary/terms_q-s.aspx>. Learn more about the causes of depression . * The symptoms of depression may differ from person to person.

Some symptoms may include a persistent sad mood, lack of pleasure in activities, change in sleep or eating habits, or a feeling of worthlessness. Learn more about the symptoms of depression . * If you think you may be suffering from depression, take the Depression Self-Screener <../check_symptoms/dep_screener.aspx>. Results are anonymous. Be sure to share your answers with your healthcare professional so he or she can properly diagnose your condition and provide appropriate treatment. Only a qualified healthcare professional can diagnose depression. * If you don't know whether or not your depression is serious enough to visit a doctor, read our Seeing a healthcare professional <../talk_doctor/seeing_hcp.aspx> section for guidance.

* Dealing with depression can be challenging. But it is treatable with medicine and therapy.
Read more about treatment options , and review some suggestions on additional ways of coping with depression .

Did you know that a person can experience both depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) at the same time? Learn more about the connection between depression and GAD .

*References: 1.* National Advisory Mental Health Council. Healthcare reform for Americans with severe mental illnesses. /Am J Psychiatry/. 1993;150:1447-65.

Depression is Not the Same for Everyone You don't need to experience all of the signs and symptoms listed above to be diagnosed with depression. Symptoms will also vary from person to person. For instance, compared with depressed men, depressed women are more likely to experience guilt, weight gain, anxiety, eating disorders, or increased sleep. Depressed older adults tend to experience persistent sadness or “empty” moods. It is important to remember that depression is a medical condition like any other. And, just as there are treatments for conditions like diabetes or heart disease, there are treatment options available for depression. Be sure to seek the assistance of a healthcare professional so they can determine if you have symptoms of depression.
If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of depression, take the Depression Self-Screener <../check_symptoms/dep_screener.aspx> and then discuss the results with your healthcare professional. Did you know the symptoms of depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can overlap? Or that a person can experience both conditions at the same time? Learn more about the overlap of depression and GAD .


Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa

This is helpful to me. My girlfriend and the bunch of them all have depression. Big family. I am an only child and this is not in my family. You are right to say you don't understand until you find the right information. The get up and go is not easy.


SteveQ said...

I've had some serious bouts of depression and fortunately have found ways to cope with them. For me, the most useful thing is to do things for others, just to keep me from thinking about myself. But each time is a little different.

The best advice I've gotten is "Get the help you need. It's out there somewhere."

Bryon Powell said...

Thanks for sharing this, Lisa. I, too, have suffered from some significant bouts of depression. I can't say that I dealt with the two most prominent episodes when they occurred, I just let them chew me up until they were done.

The biggest thing that I learned from them is recognizing when I am or, rather, may be going into a depressive episodes. Knowing the signs, which can be very individualized, can allow one to try and prevent oneself from falling in to an episode or seek help/treatment as needed.

Knowing how depression manifests itself in you can also offer relief when you are NOT going into a depressive state. I've gone through some rough stretches that I've been able to figure out were just normal rough times to which I was having normal reactions.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

I just read you blog on depression and I want applaud you for being so open and honest. I think we must be kindred spirits :-) I have suffered from depression off and on since I was 13 years old ( I am now 31), and very few people in my life have any idea. As you can an imagine, not being able to run right now due to an injury, has put me into a deeper depression that I am
fighting, especially since running is so helpful for me to work through things!

I hate taking medication, but I have recognized that sometime you
just need a little help.

Thank so much for all that you do and your kindness. It is such a
rarity on this world to find people so giving and kind!

Thank YOU!!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your blog today about depression. One of the things I find most frustrating is the response to depression by the health and life insurance companies. Once you're diagnosed with depression (it's a part of your medical record) it is VERY difficult to get health insurance (outside of a group plan, like at your place of employment). And, have you ever tried to get life insurance if you've been diagnosed? It's as if you are punished for realizing the problem - and getting the TREATMENT and HELP you need. VERY frustrating.

So, my question is, what can we do to stop this discrimination?
To get insurance companies to actually treat depression as an illness, and not be "black balled?"

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

I first read your story on Runner's World during a time when I was going through a terrible depressive episode. As an aspiring runner, your story inspired and encouraged me greatly. I know that I still suffer from depression but I am now working on the issues that are playing a role. I am currently on medication but hope to go off soon. I won't beat myself up if I can't get off but I will try to get better. Your running inspires me although I am not near your level by any means (can only run/walk about 2 miles at the moment). I love your positive energy that makes me feel I can do anything!

Sera said...

Lisa, thank you for sharing your story with us. Depression, if not treated, does serious damage to one's self esteem. Be strong.

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

Thank you so much for all your comments and thoughts.
It is hard the way insurance companies are dealing with this and it would be great to get some thoughts on how we can help this..
I am not suffering right now but have family, friends, students that are and I want to do anything I can to help them get the best help and information possible. Keep the responses coming!!!

jenhirr said...

Dear Lisa and all who read this,

I want to tell you a story about my dad. He died of a self-inflicted gun-shot wound in August of 2004. Technically, that was the end of his life here on earth but in a lot of ways it was the beginning of my journey to understand and know him. I hate to sum things up because there is always more to a story but in order to get to the important parts, I will do just that though I know this will still be lengthy.
My dad grew up in an alcoholic, abusive home. His dad spent most of his time drinking and his mother was...well, let's just say she lacked the ability to care for my dad and his many brothers and sisters. She could barely take care of herself. Because of this, my dad, the oldest son, tried his best to help provide for his family by setting pins at a bowling alley and cutting down the abandoned track house next door to burn the wood for warmth. It was my impression that my dad felt his mother was just "too stupid" to figure out how to care for them. He never felt loved. I now believe that she suffered from some undiagnosed mental health issue/s. She was definatly misunderstood.
As we all know, we are sometimes judged by our appearances and this was the case for my dad. He was often ridiculed for his good-will clothes and was told by many that he was "trash" and would never amount to anything. While many would crumble under these circumstances, he began to thrive. He clawed his way out with an "I'll show you!" attitude. By now, he also had the support of my mom who always was the top of her class and loved learning. She helped him graduate from high school and go on to college. Together, they built a family, a degree and eventually his own architectural business. He should have been on top of the world. And most of the time he was.
He started running to eleviate some of the stresses due to providing for a large family. He worked very hard and needed a "release". He discovered that release with running and found himself when he started road racing. He was good! And he trained like an animal. Sometimes running three times a day and often covering 100 miles a week while working long hours and taking care of his family. Running that much caused him some aches and pains and he was always taking pills to help him feel better. Lots of different things- over the counter meds, sometimes prescription stuff. We all figured it was fine. He was a high-functioning, seemingly happy, carefree person. He never complained. Everyone admired him; they asked him for advice. He was fine, right?
He kept working and running and living his life. He was such a good runner that he would challenge the cross-country team in the off-season to try to beat him in a 1/2 marathon. The reward for crossing the finish line before him was a crisp $100 bill. Although there were many that tried, I'm pretty sure his wallet was never lonely on race day.
He eventaully became interested in doing a triathlon and he started swimming. Slow and steady. It wasn't his strong suit but he worked incredibly hard at it. After a time, he had a bike built for himself and he rode it on a trainer all winter long. His training was really progressing but he didn't have much experience on a road bike and one day he went out for a time trial ride with his new aerobars and he crashed while turning to check for traffic behind him. He broke his femur in seven places and his heart into about a million. He never really healed after that. He walked with a limp. Swimming did not give him the "release" that running did. He was in a lot of pain. He had grown in his life, enough to recognize that much of his drive to run and succeed in business was not only an "I'll show you" to all those people who said he couldn't but an "I'll show you!" to the depression that hid in the shadows threatening to undo him. There had been times that he did ask for help and recieve treatment. He even started taking meds for depression but as with most meds he took too many. He tried many things to help him outrun the shadows but when your leg is broken and you've been told you'll never run again, the shadows have a chance to catch up. And they did. It was around this time he was introduced to oxycontin and the fight between the depression and the drugs started. The two of those forces raced and dragged him to an undesirable finish line in Aug of 2004.

Depression and addiction are terrible and there are things we can do about them. Unfortunatly, the blackness that overshadows the depression is fear. Fear of telling our stories and asking for help, and sometimes even the self-worth to know we deserve a life with more quality. (I believe all this was the case for my dad.)

We deserve it. Every bit of it. It happens and it's o.k. but we can't just run away from it. (though running helps:) We have to open the lines of communication and give it a voice. Let's help each other by putting it out there and taking away the shame.

Lisa, I love you. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the above posts. . .depression makes one feel so worthless and ashamed at times, that it is very hard to want to seek help. Afraid of being further allienated and judged, you want to try and hide it or think that somehow you should be able to fix it on your own. . .Knowing that their are others out there that are going through our same trials, at least makes it not so ostracizing, and gives hope for finding ways to try and get better. . .Thanks to all of you for sharing your stories!

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

I want to thank you all for your amazing stories and being willing to share! So many people need help but are just scared or have fear to reach out. You are never alone, never.
Jennica..I read you post 5 times and the email you sent me another 5 times. God love you for your spirit that sores so high!

Anonymous said...

It seems that people are scared to share the thoughts on depression. Sharing with other's is a big step to working on depression. Reaching out to love ones and people who care about you. Many go into isolation and feel like they are not worthy or even worthless. Have any of you ever felt this way?


jenhirr said...

Sam, sometimes I feel like my loved ones have had enough to deal with and I let myself suffer in silence. Bad idea. I have to remember that I am just as important and worthy as the people I put my effort into taking care of. You should too.

I do think it's normal to feel that way but we have the change what "normal" means in reference to depression right?

All the best.


Jeannie said...

Thanks for writing about this. I think depression more than any other disease is the one least talked about or written about. I am not on any medication at the moment, I have been one of those in the middle, I have always suffered from depression but mild not major, for me eating green foods like spinach, and taking my blue green algae, and fresh wheat grass during the summer months helps. But I think mild to medium depression, no one talks about, no one in 12 step groups talks about it, no one really wants to hear about it, it is just this unspoken about condition. And for me, external factors, like job stress, money stress, life direction stress, lack of sunlight stress, brings it on. I have more tools from 12 step programs to deal with it, I am more aware of it, but it is just something that never goes away it seems, it is always there waiting to rear its head, I can put it at bay by self affirmations, going for a run, the primary series of ashtanga yoga but it is always there......so I REALLY appreciate your writing about it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!