Depression: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments
Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., Psychologist
You'll know your Serotonin level is low (and depression is here) by the following symptoms:
1. Most depressed folks experience early morning awakening, usually around 4:00 am (farmers are exempted). Serotonin, you see, controls our sleep cycle.
2. Concentration and attention will drop. Depressed children/students will experience a drop in grades. You'll start putting odd things in the refrigerator (a bowling ball is the office record!), forget why you went to the grocery, and become very forgetful and scatterbrained at work/home.
3. You'll lose physical energy. You can sleep for ten hours and you'll still be bone tired. You will cry at the drop of a hat - driving down the highway, doing dishes, sitting at work, etc.
4. Sexual interest, appetite, and general interest will rapidly drop. You will stop answering the phone, stop visiting friends/relatives, and pull the blinds.
5. Most dangerous - your mind speed will increase. Your mind will race at what seems like 200 miles per hour. Depressed people often tell their doctor "I can't get my mind to stop!" The minute you wake up in the morning - it will start up. Your brain will then turn against you. It will reach in your memory and pull out every bad memory it can find - abuse as a child, failed relationships, etc. - anything to make you feel bad and especially guilty. You will be tortured by your own thoughts.
6. As your mind speed picks up, the "garbage truck" will arrive. While the brain is already torturing you with the past, it will create/invent new ideas/thoughts to torture you. In every case of depression, if the depression stays long enough, you will receive the same "garbage" thoughts from your mind. You will be told:
- you are a burden to your family/friends
- you have failed/disappointed your family
- no one really cares about you
- your children would be better raised by someone else
- your family would be better off without you
- your spouse would be better off without you
- you are going crazy and there's no hope
- it would be better if you weren't around
- you would be better off dead
- you should probably kill yourself
If you're depressed - then you already know about the garbage truck. It's almost impossible to explain this part, and the excessive mind speed, to someone who has never been seriously depressed. If your depression goes untreated, this constant "garbage" will totally destroy your self-confidence. Try as you may, you will be unable to control this part of depression.
7. As part of the "garbage truck", your mind will try to make you as uncomfortable as possible. You may be flooded with thoughts of violence (against yourself and others), you'll think you are condemned by God, or you'll think you deserve this condition for some reason. Your garbage will also tell you that if you seek professional help (physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.) that you'll be committed to an institution forever.
8. When depressed, your brain begins running a mental "video tape" of your worst hits/experiences. If married, a mental tape of the marriage is played daily, only focusing on the worst experiences. If you are young, you will suddenly become preoccupied with your upbringing, who got the best gym shoes, the favorite child, the car you never received. Frequent if not constant thoughts and preoccupations about past problems and issues is a common sign of depression.
In short, depression is a neurochemical reaction to severe and prolonged stress, either suddenly surfacing or gradually creeping up on you over a period of many months. The treatment for this dark cloud is much easier than you think. In short, depression is a neurochemical reaction to severe and prolonged stress, either suddenly surfacing or gradually creeping up on you over a period of many months. The treatment for this dark cloud is much easier than you think.
Current Treatment for Depression:
Treatment for depression frequently involves two programs, one using antidepressant medication and the other repairing the damage done by months of "garbage". In all current research, the best way to recover from a severe depression is using both methods.
Medication Treatment: Remember the automobile example, being several quarts low after running too hot for too long. Depression is treated medically in a similar manner - we add a few quarts of oil until the fluid level (Serotonin) is normal. In depression, we use antidepressant medication to "add" the brain's oil, in most cases, Serotonin. An antidepressant medication slowly increases the Serotonin in the brain. Prozac, Zoloft, and the newest "Paxil" are antidepressants especially made for this purpose. They form a new class of antidepressant medications, SSRI's, or (ready for this?) Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI).
As in the automobile, as your "oil" level goes up, your symptoms go down. Most antidepressant medications require at least four to six weeks to increase the serotonin level significantly although you'll notice improvements after the first week. Antidepressant medications, the SSRI's for example, often stop crying spells in five to seven days and stop the "garbage truck" in five to ten days.
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