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Understanding Depression

Depression is one of the most common and most misunderstood illnesses. Many people think that if they are feeling depressed, they should just be able to get over it by themselves. When depression becomes severe, this isn't true. Many times depression has biological causes and can be treated with medication. Depression can be overwhelming and out of the person's control. Depression can last for many months, or even years, if it's not treated.

Sometimes, depression is triggered by a stressful event in your life, such as an illness or a job change. At other times, it can seem to come out of nowhere. Often, people who are depressed feel worthless. They have trouble concentrating and are usually unable to enjoy things. It's common to have difficulty sleeping when you are depressed. You can get into a vicious circle where you have low energy from your depression, are unable to sleep well, and then feel even more tired and exhausted.

Down in the Dumps

Lisa was miserable. She was laid off from her job when her company downsized. At first, she handled it well. She and her husband, Doug, took a one-week vacation, and then she started looking for another job. But after three weeks of looking, she hadn't found anything. Lisa had sent out 50 resumes and had only been called back for one interview. After the interview, the company told her that they liked her but she was overqualified for the job.

Lisa was quite discouraged. She lost all interest in hunting for a job. She started sleeping late every day. When Doug came home from work, he would ask how her day was, and she would say “What do you think? It was terrible.” Lisa started losing her energy and couldn't enjoy anything.

Doug didn't know what to do. When he suggested that they should go to a movie, Lisa would say, “I'm too tired,” even though she had slept late that morning. When he suggested going out to brunch on a Sunday, she would say, “I'm not hungry.” When he gave her ideas on looking for another job, she would say “No one would want to hire me.”

Doug was worried, but he also became angry at Lisa. He felt that she needed to snap out of it. Doug thought Lisa just wasn't trying very hard to get better. Over time, his concern turned into frustration. He started arguments with her, but most of the time she didn't argue back. Lisa had stopped caring about much of anything, including herself and her marriage.

It never occurred to Doug or Lisa that she was suffering from a curable illness. Lisa developed a major depression, which was probably triggered by the loss of her job. Over time, she lost interest in anything, wasn't eating very much, was sleeping poorly at night and awakening late in the morning, and she felt worthless. There were even some days when she woke up wishing she were dead. After several months of Lisa's exhaustion, Doug thought that maybe cancer or another illness was making her so tired. He dragged her to their primary care doctor who immediately recognized that Lisa was depressed. The doctor started her on antidepressants, and within a few weeks she began to feel much better.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Marriage © 2001 by Hilary Rich and Helaina Laks Kravitz, M.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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