James Hicks, M.D., 50 SIGNS OF MENTAL ILLNESS (Yale University Press)

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Depression

You thought you had defeated this beast. Life was looking pretty good. Both your daughters left for college, where they've been doing very well. Your wife seemed happy. And you hadn't missed a day at work for two years. So why are you now dreading waking up each morning, each day being more painful than the last, with no end in sight? It seems now that you were never really happy, you were just fooling yourself.

Last night you couldn't sleep at all. You lay awake in bed worrying about everything. When the sun came up, you pulled the curtains shut and got back into bed. You spent the whole day in your pajamas. The apartment is a mess, the dishes overflowing in the sink. When your wife got home, she just sighed and loaded the dishwasher. You're too lazy to help her, even though she's worked hard all day and should rest. You don't know why she puts up with you. If she left you, that would be the end.

Over dinner she tries to cheer you up. She tells you stories about her friends at work. She suggests that you both go out to a movie, but you just stare at your plate, and she knows that you don't have the energy. You hardly touch your dinner, even though you have barely eaten all day. The food seems to have no taste. You think that maybe you have cancer, but there's no point in checking. If you do have cancer, you'll die soon anyway.

For a while you tried to keep working. Your family needs the money, and at least your job got you out of the house. But your mind kept wandering off. Sometimes you had to close the door so no one would see you sitting, your face in your hands, crying for no reason. Your supervisor finally told you to go home instead of wasting everyone's time. You cried all the way home and didn't tell your wife for days.

Is life really supposed to be so miserable? Doesn't everyone realize how pointless life is? Maybe it's just you; maybe you think about things too much. But how can you ignore the fact that you've accomplished so little, that life holds nothing for you?

This chapter covers the following topics:

  • Depression
  • Sadness Colors Everything
  • Depression Affects Sleep, Appetite, and Sex
  • Life Slows Down During Depression
  • What Is the Course of Major Depression?
  • Depressed Mood Can Occur in Several Other Illnesses
  • What Causes Depression?
  • How to Cope with Depression
  • Antidepressant Medications
  • Newer Antidepressant Medications Have Fewer Side Effects
  • Other Medical Treatments for Depression

 

This excerpt may not be reproduced without written permission from the publishers.
Fifty Signs of Mental Illness: A Guide to Understanding Mental Health
Yale University Press / New Haven and London
Copyright © 2005 by James Whitney Hicks

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