Carolyn Phelps, Ph.D

September 29, 2014

When I was a first semester graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh I heard 2 things about depression that stuck like glue in my brain. I was taught more than just these 2 useful things: but these required no effort to remember. The first was that Dr. Maria Kovac’s research had just determined that children could be clinically depressed. As in just as ill with depression as any adult. This was “groundbreaking” at the time – since before that, the prevailing attitude seemed to be “They’re kids. What do they have to be depressed about?” I think if you had asked one of the clinically depressed kids they would have referred you to sentence number one. “It’s precisely because we’re kids – read no control over our lives-And in case you hadn’t noticed we have the same basic biology.” This was in 1981 – and I shake my head when I think of the kids who suffered with depression because it took us so long to bust that myth. Yes, kids can become clinically depressed and you can read more about that at The Depressed They also can benefit from treatment for their depression and their depression should not be treated as “just a phase.” Basically, if you’re a parent out there wondering if your child is depressed, I have this to say to you: trust yourself! You don’t just think things like this about everything your child does. So this means that you are keying into something as being off kilter – even if you have difficulty pinpointing exactly what that something is. Rarely, have I had the pleasure of saying to a parent “I am pleased to inform you that your child has an acute case of Nothing At All; a complicated ailment that is best treated with a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies.” But I do love the moments when I can say that. Fortunately clinical depression in a child is treatable – though kids can’t call for help themselves so they are waiting for you to make the move.
The 2nd depression factoid that stuck like glue in my brain was this description, “You will recognize the person with depression sitting in your waiting room – they look depressed.” And it is true – as if the illness creeps from a person’s insides to their outsides! It is that internally infectious.
The cruel truth about depression is that everything you need to do to get better is all the things that seem un-doable. “Seem,” however, is the operative word. They are all do-able and no one needs to want to do a thing (for anyone who has washed the dishes after a big family reunion dinner you know something about doing things that you don’t want to do). In fact, most of us know how to do things we don’t want to do – which is a good thing for if you ever have any psychological problems (and 1 in 4 of us will.) Because the answer, almost invariable is that we need to do what seems impossible – but only seems impossible – it is ALL possible. Exercise, socialize, find the good, believe in the power of hope when you are feeling hopeless. Joanne Fairfield, one of this week’s guests, quoted a doctor she had worked with who said 70% of the work you will do to get better has occurred when you make the call to get help. I LOVE that! You only then have 30% of the way to go. And if you have come 70% of the way, why stop there? The rest is work and takes effort but no one who has fought their way back from depression has regretted it. Not one. Nada. Rena Carey, a guest on our Season 3 episode of Depression talked about her long battle and great persistence and said it was worth the fight. What I was struck by most was her willingness to hang in there and when one thing only worked somewhat, she tried something else until she got the results she was looking for. You are never too old to give yourself the gift of feeling better. For a great read about how to get out of depression check out Michael Yapko’s book, “Depression is Contagious.” It is a worthwhile read for both the treatment provider, and the person with living with depression; and if you read it while on a treadmill you’ll be doubling your benefit.
For the caller who wondered how Depression is different from the “down” in Bipolar Disorder – the answer is simply, it’s not. That having been said, the depression in Bipolar Disorder most typically includes oversleeping, overeating, and a profound lack of energy, along with a myriad of other symptoms common to depression.
Finally for a good rundown on the symptoms, risk factors, causes of depression check out the website for depression.
On October 2nd I have the author of ”A User’s Guide to Therapy” on the show. You can buy it on Amazon, and someone told me they saw it at Barnes and Noble. See you at 7:30 on Thursday night.

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