Are You Depressed?

I have been stood up so I guess I should use my time wisely…..

In a recent post I  talked about the stages of loss and depression. The most recent Macular Degeneration Partnership ( bulletin has an article on depression. Seems like a hot topic recently. A lot of people getting depressed with Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

Thinking about it, I realized I had not defined depression. I don’t think the Partnership people did either. Could have missed it, but I don’t think so.

To start, I want to state plainly and simply, depression is not a dirty word. It is not a weakness. It is not something that has to be suffered and denied because ‘real men’ do not have mental illness.

 All right, so I am picking on you guys but the simple fact of the matter is that women are a lot more apt to seek treatment for mental health concerns than men are. You guys might as well own it. You think depression is a weakness and many of you would not be caught dead in a place like this, a counseling center.

So what is depression? We may say we know it if we see it, but maybe we don’t.

The DSM’s full name is Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It’s the book professionals use to classify mental illnesses. We are up to number 5 of these manuals but what I have at my finger tips is my ratty, falling apart, well-loved copy of IV-TR. It’s sort of a revision of the fourth edition. My 5 is at home right now.

No matter which version you are using depression is defined as having some basic characteristics.  There is ‘depressed mood’ which is basically feelings of sadness. In children – and yes, in some men I have noticed  – you may get irritability and anger. OK, OK it can happen in women too, but I have not seen the foul, angry mood in women as often.

The second characteristic is ‘anhedonia’. That is a fancy name for nothing being fun any more. “Want to go fishing, Gramps?” “Nah, it is not that much fun any more. You go without me.”

Third we have ‘physical symptoms’. Changes in eating or sleeping habits can be signs of depression. It does not matter which way. Increases and decreases are both considered to be symptoms.

The same goes for ‘activity level’. Some of us get very lethargic and spend most of the day in bed or just sitting around. Others of us become agitated and always have to be moving. This moving around often does not get much done. Agitation, not goal-directed work.

‘Fatigue’ is a big symptom of depression. Everything is just too much effort.

AMD can lead you to question whether or not you have any value. It may lead you to feeling unworthy and guilty about being dependent upon others for so much. These are symptoms of depression, too.

Depression will really cloud your thinking. Thinking ‘straight’ and being ‘sharp’ become a lot more difficult when you are depressed. Some people chalk this up to senior moments and old age but that may not be it at all.

The last symptom listed in the DSM is ‘thoughts of death and suicide’. Thinking your family and the world would be better off if you were gone is wrong-headed thinking that can be brought about by depression.

If any of these symptoms sound like you or someone you know, it is time to seek help. Get to your doctor. He can help you find help.Medications, counseling and support groups are valuable in fighting depression. Feeling bad is not a requirement of AMD.

Which brings me to one more quick point before I quit. I have had clients tell me their situations are really terrible and it is unrealistic to try to look on the bright side. Hard, cold reality really is hard and cold. Normal people are delusional!

I tell these clients they are exactly right. Studies have proven depressed people often have a better handle on the facts. Their world view is often more realistic….but it is nowhere near as much fun. It also does not help you put one foot in front of the other as easily.

In any case, putting on rose-colored glasses and joining in the delusion is not a bad thing. So, let’s hear it for Pollyanna!




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