Sep 7, 2015

Dr. Jones: About 10% of US adults experience mental illness such as depression or anxiety every year. How to overcome that stigma? This is Kyle Bradford Jones, family physician at University of Utah, coming up next on The Scope.

Announcer: Health information from expects, supported by research. From University of Utah Health, this is TheScopeRadio.com.

Dr. Jones: So lots of people, particularly adults in the US, suffer from depression or anxiety but have difficulty overcoming the stigma of having that. A lot of people think, "Hey, am I crazy if I'm depressed? I can buck up. I can do this on my own." The culture in the United States tends to revolve around being the cowboy, "I am independent. I can do this on my own. I do not need your help," but depression and anxiety is more than that. This is something that is a real illness that you cannot simply overcome on your own.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind. This is more than just being sad. That's kind of the first thought that most people have. Depression can be an emotion, it can be a symptom of something else, or it can be a diagnosis. The emotion is feeling sad. It is having a bad hair day. It's going through something tough. That's completely normal. It can also be a symptom of something else, such as thyroid disease or something like that.

But the diagnosis of depression, you feel a little bit more sad, you feel guilt, you have trouble concentrating, you have less energy. You no longer take pleasure in things that are normally fun and entertaining for you, and it leads to decreased function. And so having that thought of, "Hey, I can overcome this on my own," is actually going to be detrimental if you have the diagnosis of clinical depression.

So what things can you do? First of all, go see your physician. This is something I can start with your primary care physician. Talk to them about what you are experiencing. They can give you some guidance on how severe it is, if it is the diagnosis versus if it's an emotion, a symptom, they can offer some different things for you.

A lot of people think that therapy is just talking to someone and that's it. But that's not the purpose of it. So certainly that helps a little bit, but there are therapeutic methods that have been proven to give you better coping skills, to help you better deal with the things that you're experiencing.

Now, the best way to deal with depression is a combination of therapy and medication. A lot of people are worried, "Hey, if I go on medication, I'm going to be on this for the rest of my life. It shows that I am crazy and I'm going to feel like a zombie. It's going to completely take away my ability to feel." It's actually the opposite on all those accounts.

The vast majority of people who are on medication for depression or anxiety take it for about 6 to 12 months, and then they're okay without it after that. It's actually not something that's going to make you feel like a zombie and keep you from feeling. It actually quiets the depression and anxiety so that you can get back to your normal self, to your normal feelings, your normal activities. Less than 50% of adult men get treatment for their depression or anxiety. Obviously, that's a big deal.

Now, how do we get rid of this stigma? The first step is understanding it, understanding that this is a medical condition. It's caused by a decrease of chemicals in your brain. This is not a moral weakness. Oftentimes this can be brought on by a stressful life event and it can just be a short-term thing. Like we said, you don't need to have treatment long-term for most people. Also, understanding that as a society we just need to talk about it more. It's okay.

There are actually a significant amount of people that struggle with this from time to time and that's okay. Treatment helps because if you don't get it treated, it actually worsens your relationships, it worsens other health problems that you have and overall can simply make things worse. So seeking treatment and seeking the appropriate diagnosis can really make a big difference.

In summary, if you feel like you may be suffering from depression or anxiety, you are not crazy. Seek therapy. Go see your physician. Don't be afraid of it, because denying it only further ruins everything else going on in your life.

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