The Blues and Depression

By David J. Norton*, Ph.D., LMFT, Director


I was preparing for the Marital Therapy course I teach over at Wheaton College Graduate School when I came upon some disturbing research results on depression. Some of the research finding:


  • during the course of a lifetime, it is estimated that between 8% and 18% of us will experience at least one major episode of depression[1]
  • women are about twice as likely as men to become depressed[2]
  • it is estimated that 15% of those depressed will commit suicide[3]
  • for about 50% of the couples experiencing marital difficulties, depression is affecting one spouse [4]


Yikes! While the blue mood once in a while is normal and probably expected, obviously more serious levels of depression need attention. Symptoms that should not be ignored include sleep and/or appetite disturbance, constant negativity or irritability, difficulty concentrating, and the lack of enjoyment when doing activities that used to provide pleasure. These symptoms tell us that the depression has reached a severe enough level to affect our brain chemistry and our functioning.


So what to do. First, we know that if you do what you feel like — nothing — then the depression will get worse. Depression is very treatable, but needs to be faced up to and fought. Action is required. Talk about it with the safe people in your life. Read about it. Write about the issues that might be troubling you enough to be contributing to your depression. Whatever you do, do something.


Second, you should talk with your physician about your depression. A physician who knows you can be a great resource in correctly diagnosing and treating your depression. There are medical conditions and medications you may be taking that can cause depression. Your physician also has about twenty different anti- depressants that he or she might use to help correct the brain chemistry.


But what about therapy? Because of the frequency of depression, many studies have been done on the best way to treat it. They show a consistent finding. Medication is good for the short haul, therapy good for the long haul, and both are better than either one alone. Therapy can deal with both the psychological roots of your depression as well as the current relational causes and effects of your depression. Spouses are sometimes included in therapy as they have insights about the depression and also can help with depression recovery. It is also true that if one spouse is depressed, the chance of the other becoming depressed is increased.


Finally, exercise, exercise, exercise. Our bodies and especially our brains love the effects of exercise. Three rounds of exercise per week is enough to help your brain heal and increase your ability to handle stress. But don't wait until you "feel like it," because that will be a long wait. Start out slowly, say three months of three times per week, but never so much exercise that you get sore. Just enough to work up a sweat.


Remember, if you or a loved one are struggling to get on top of a depression, take action. The statistics are alarming but consequences of toughing it out can be tragic. Don't hesitate to call the office for a depression check-up. One of the Centennial staff will be glad to help you sort out the best way to respond to your blue moods.


[1] Boyd, J.H., & Weissman, M.M. (1981). Epidemiology of affective disorders.Archives of General Psychiatry, 38, 1039-1046. and Karmo, M. Hough, R.L., Burnam, A., Escobar, J.I., Timers, D.M., Santana, F., & Boyd, J.H. (1987). Lifetime prevalence of specific psychiatric disorders among Mexican American and non-Hispanic whites in Los Angeles. Archives of General Psychiatry, 44, 695-701.

[2]Frank, E., Carpenter, L.L., & Kupfer, D.J. (1988). Sex difference in recurrent depression: Are there any that are significant? Amercian Journal of Psychiatry, 145, 41-45, and Robins, L.N., Helzer, J.E., Weissman, M.M., Orvaschel, H., Gruenberg, E., Burke, J.D., & regier, D.A., (1984). Lifetime prevalence of secific psychiatric disorders in three sites. Archives of General Psychiatry, 41, 949-958.

[3]Hirschfield, R.M.A. & Goodwin, F.K. (1988). Mood disorders. In J.A. Talbot, R.E. Hales, & S.C> Yudofsky (Eds.), Textbook of Psychiatry (pp. 403-441.) Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.

[4]Beach, S.R.H., Jouriles, E. & O'Leary, K.D. (1985). Extramarital sex: Impact on depression and commitment in couples seeking marital therapy. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 11, 99-108.


Dr. David Norton is the founder and CEO of Centennial Counseling Center. He practices out of the St. Charles office*
The St. Charles office supports St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, Aurora and the entire Fox Valley.


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