Depression: Cancer of the Spirit

Clinical depression is categorically different from the common experience of having the blues for a few hours or days. Depression is a lasting, pervasive, and overwhelming feeling of deep sadness, irritability, apathy, hopelessness, and self-loathing that interferes with life functioning. Other symptoms of depression include concentration problems, obsessive negative thoughts, increased or decreased sleep and/or appetite, feeling sluggish, and thoughts of suicide.

Like cancer, depression is an attack from within. Instead of the body being besieged by its own cancerous cells, in the case of depression, the person is viciously assaulted by his/her own thoughts. Just like cancer, depression is a biological disease. The brain’s chemistry causes self-destructive thinking and behavior, which can be disabling and even lethal, in cases of suicide.

The good news is that depression is treatable. Therapy and/or medication can relieve this cancer of the spirit. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may suffer from depression, remember that this isn’t a character flaw. It is a treatable medical condition.

At any age, depression can disrupt the sufferer’s ability to function professionally, to experience love, and to feel capable and confident. But, depression becomes an even more serious threat for older adults and is associated with poorer outcomes medically, cognitively, socially and, of course, emotionally.

As a society, it is critical that we recognize depression as the serious health threat it is and work to de-stigmatize it. We must offer compassion and support to those being ravaged by this disease, just as we do to those battling cancer.

If you are concerned that you may be depressed, it can feel overwhelming even to think about seeking help. Just focus on taking a first step. Possible helpful actions include: talking with your medical doctor, seeking a therapist, or reaching out to your faith leader. You can even forward this email to a family member or friend with a short note asking for their support finding professional help. Tackle depression with the urgency that you would intervene with cancer. Treatment is available and effective. The sooner you take that first step, the sooner you will find relief.

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