A. Chemical imbalance.
Surprised by the simplicity of the answer? Were you expecting a list of things like: death of a loved one, change of circumstances, lack of resources, inability to participate in previously enjoyable activities, illness, and so forth? Certainly, a feeling of sadness or (more severely) depression could be common after any of those items, but would it be necessary? No. You could be ill but not sad. You could even have terminal illness and not be sad. Perhaps it changes your entire outlook on living and you relish each hour, doing new and profoundly significant things you'd never attempted before. The perception that sadness, and depression, are caused by these events are just plain wrong. Is it common for people to feel sad in the face of that stuff? Yes. But is is normal, no. Depression is not normal, especially clinical depression, or diagnosable depression. However, according to the Mental Health Association, 43% of people think depression is normal. They're wrong. Let's educate those 43% to the truth.
If you get nothing else out of this, understand that: While a clinical-grade depression after a precipitating event can be considered common, it is not ever considered normal.
Okay, so now everyone who's depressed is abnormal? No, of course not. But the depression itself, as a severe reaction (severe enough to be considered diagnosable, to be more than "sad"), is abnormal, yes.
What happens in the body of a person with medical conditions?
- A person who has a heart attack and is given a good prognosis and sent home will be 3-4% more likely to die in 6 months if they also have clinical depression.
- A person who has a stroke can have personality changes if they also have depression at the time of the stroke.
- A stroke victim who also has depression generally takes 10 extra months in rehabilitation (closer to a year, than the non-depressed person who takes an average of 2 months to rehabilitate).
- Some medications, like cancer medications can cause the kind of cortical imbalance that leads to depression. Extra caution must be taken with these patients.
- Similarly, diabetes causes changes in the body that can cause clinical depression, and vice versa. Depressed people are more likely to develop the lifelong diagnosis of diabetes, and all the lifestyle changes that come with it.
- Dementia may be over-diagnosed in the elderly because there is a such thing as delusional depression, and it may be under-diagnosed as a result of dementia diagnoses.
- People with Parkinson's Disorder are more likely to have increased problems with movement and decreased concentration or ability to make decisions if they also have clinical depression.
- People with clinical depression are more likely to have comorbid back ache and gastrointestinal problems, which may or may not be psychosomatic.
- Fibromyalgia shares the same symptoms and treatments as clinical depression.
Q. Okay, so what can I do with this information?
A. Manage your daily stress in ways that keep your cortical levels...level.
- Exercise daily; even a 10-minute walk helps.
- Do something fun; again, 10 minutes of a puzzle book or reading or talking to a friend on the phone or petting an animal.
- Eat well with lots of fresh foods like veggies and fruits and limit the junky stuff.
- Sleep properly on a steady routine.
- Work toward goals; even little stuff like learning something new or finishing up a project. Looking forward has tremendous effects whereas looking behind you generally is detrimental.
- Connect with something beyond yourself, whether that's spirituality, religion, or community involvement through volunteer work.
- Seek help. If you need help getting/staying on track, I can do that. If you need help reaching out, I'm happy to do that with you, hooking you up with volunteer organizations, and so forth. If you want to correct any sadness that you're having, we can get that done, too; quickly and painlessly!
- If you see someone who seems to have some sadness or depressive symptoms, refer them for help and a good daily regiment to keep their cortical levels in tact. You may just be saving a life.