Three Key Truths to Keep in Mind

KEY TRUTH #1:

Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder are real.

Depression and generalized anxiety disorder are medical illnesses — no less real than other illnesses like diabetes or heart disease. So let's begin by putting some of the myths about them to rest.

What depression and generalized anxiety disorder AREN'T:

  • the ordinary "blues" we all feel from time to time that pass relatively quickly
  • the fleeting worries and stresses of everyday life
  • signs of a personal flaw, weakness or failure
  • just something you can snap out of, forget about, or will away all on your own
  • rare conditions that affect only one gender, or people from particular walks of life
  • anything to be ashamed of
  • something you have to live with

What depression and generalized anxiety disorder ARE:

  • medical illnesses that have often lasted for many years
  • common — affecting men and women from all walks of life
  • caused by a variety of factors
  • treatable conditions

Depression and generalized anxiety disorder are also very real in terms of the suffering they cause when they aren't treated. The real pain of the symptoms, and their ability to put lives on hold, captured in the following personal descriptions:

"For me, depression was an empty, lonely feeling, as if I was disconnected from everything and everyone. Nothing mattered anymore... it was a struggle just to get out of bed..."

"I didn't know what was wrong... all I knowwas my stomach was always upset, I was always tired and cranky and snapping at everone... but all the tests came back normal."

"I didn't want to got out to see friends or family, and I couldn't motivate myself to face work... I thought they'd all see how pathetic and empty I was."

"Total exhaustion took over, but I could never sleep for more than a few hours. All my energy went into worrying... I couldn't concentrate on anything else..."

"I started to notice that couldn't read anymore. My thinking felt slow, like I had to fight to pay attention... I felt so helpless... getting through a day at work seemed impossible."

"Most days, I had this tight headache in my temples... I thought I'd pinched something in my neck or shoulders... I could never relax."

"I felt like everything that went wrong was completely my fault, that I wasn't worth anybody's time, that I wasn't even worth helping. I was ashamed of the person I was and afraid of the person I'd become."

"I had no appetite for food, for sex, for life. I didn't recognize myself."

Real illnesses, various possible causes:

Although depression and generalized anxiety disorder can sometimes seem like they've come out of the blue, they usually develop through a mix of factors such as: genetics, biology, life events, and personality styles. Let's look closer at each one.

Genetics — Depression and generalized anxiety disorder tend to run in families. That's why your doctor will want to know about your family history.

Biology — Some people with these illnesses are thought to have an imbalance in naturally occurring brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. It's believed that this imbalance leads to many of the emotional andbehaviorall symptoms.

Life events — Going through a number of stressful life events, or traumas (such as serious illness, abuse, divorce, or losing a meaningful job) can make some people more vulnerable to depression or generalized anxiety disorder.

Personality styles — Traits like being self-critical or having low self-esteem can also put people at greater risk.

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