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This Month In Life
  • Protect Your Pooch
    Looking up at you with those big puppy dog eyes, it can be hard to resist sharing what you're eating. But before you give in to their begging, think twice. Many foods that are completely safe and healthy for human consumption can be quite dangerous and even life threatening for man's best friend. Read >>
  • When You're in Charge
    While caring for a loved one is a rewarding and loving thing to do, it can be stressful. Added work, changes in your family schedule, financial strain, dealing with sickness, and the responsibility for someone else's well-being all take a toll on your relationships and your physical and emotional health. Read >>
  • Feeling Down: As Bad As Smoking
    You hear all the time about the health risks of smoking, but not too often about depression. What is it about depression that drives some people over the edge to attempt suicide and can you detect the warning signs of deadly depression to protect you and your loved ones? Read >>
  • No More Nagging
    What happens when you work hard to stay in shape, maintain your weight, and be healthy while your spouse refuses to exercise? You may suffer as well. Read >>
Health and Fitness News

Feeling Down: As Bad As Smoking

Depression isn’t just a nuisance. It may be as deadly as smoking.

Hearing the news of Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams’ suicide has made many reconsider the danger of depression.

Depression can happen to anyone whether rich, poor, young, old, the healthy, and the sick. No matter who you are, you are not immune to depression. Millions around the world suffer from this complicated condition. Symptoms of depression may be mild, severe, short-lived, or chronic and can be difficult to treat due to genetic tendencies, addictions, and the stresses of life.

A recent study evaluated the morality risk of those who smoke compared to those who are depressed. What did they find? Depression is as much a risk factor for an early death as smoking. You hear all the time about the health risks of smoking, but not too often about depression. What is it about depression that drives some people over the edge to attempt suicide and can you detect the warning signs of deadly depression to protect you and your loved ones?

Comedy can be a cathartic way to deal with personal trauma. - Robin Williams

What Makes it Worse?

When it comes to detecting a depression that’s worse than normal, it’s important to be aware of the things that exacerbate the condition. While these things aren’t an explanation for suicide, they can increase the risk.

Illness—especially an illness that is long-term, can lead to deep, chronic depression. When you’re in pain, are dealing with the side effects of medication, or aren’t able to live life as you wish you could, depression can be worse. It may be that heart problems and entering the early stages of Parkinson’s disease affected the severity of Robin Williams’ depression and contributed to his suicide.

People often turn to unhealthy lifestyle choices to “help” them cope with their condition. Alcohol or drug addiction can all affect the degree of depression. Williams was in and out of rehab for his addictions, another risk factor for deep depression that leads to suicide.

Depression can come and go. Some depressed people are diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, characterized by extreme mood swings from mania to depression. A psychological condition like bipolar disorder can obviously affect one’s experience with depression.

It’s true that many people think they no longer need antidepressant medication when they start to feel better and stop taking it on their own, without medical supervision. Unfortunately, without medication, depression will come back. And when it sets in again, it’s often worse the second time around. Suicidal thoughts seem to be more common at the start and end of taking antidepressant medication.

What Makes It Deadly?

Unless you’ve ever been severely depressed yourself, you can’t empathize with the pain, emptiness, and hopelessness that depressed people often feel. For many, suicide is their way of ending these overwhelming, inescapable feelings.

Sadly, some depression seems completely unresponsive to treatment. Two out of three patients tries two or more antidepressants before they find one that works. The time, energy, and money to treat depression without success can lead to greater feelings of despair.

Those with severe depression and those who’ve been suffering for a long time may have more trouble controlling and treating their condition. This is one reason it’s important to address symptoms of depression sooner rather than later.

What Are the Warning Signs?

Those with depressed family members or friends must be on the lookout for warning signs and behaviors of deadly depression.

The most serious warning sign that requires immediate action is regular talk about suicide or death. Don’t take changes with that kind of talk.
Additional warning signs include talk about worthlessness or hopelessness; persistent depression; anger and irritability; sleep problems; loss of interest in family, friends, or normal activities; and contacting people to say, in a sense, goodbye.

Any of these warning signs must be taken seriously. The person needs professional intervention. Call 911, stay with the person, and keep him or her away from any type of weapon or drug.

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