Who is at risk of getting depression?

As I mentioned in prior articles, depression is not the fault of your child or of the family.  However there are several risk factors that are potential causes of depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health they are as follows:

  • Personal or family history of depression
  • Major life changes, trauma or stress
  • Certain physical illnesses and medications

Personal or family history of depression

Personal or family history of depression is where there is a history somewhere along the family tree of someone having depression.  My grandmother struggled with depressive moods.  She talked about a weight upon her chest and when she was able to talk about things with my mother, she would mention “the weight upon her chest was lifted”.  This could either be a panic attack or just a heaviness.  I have noticed the same thing in myself as having a weight on my chest.  Sometimes it was in fact a panic attack, which feels like a heart attack, or just a heaviness.

During my deeper times of depression while I was still at work, I had hoped that it was a heart attack…then someone would be able to know that there was something wrong with me.  Being diagnosed with depression wasn’t enough to “show” someone that I wasn’t ok, as there are relatively no physical symptoms that a doctor can pick up other than high blood pressure and a high pulse rate, which can be stress related.  I wanted to show work that they had put too much on me and so a heart attack would  have served my purposes.


Major life changes, trauma or stress

Which leads to the next point, major life changes, trauma or stress can cause a depressive mood.  There were several pieces to this puzzle that affected my depression.  I was stressed at work as there were major layoffs that were taking place.  My boss was fired, the VP of Operations was let go, the CFO was pushed into early retirement, the manager of Accounts Payable was also pushed into early retirement.  These people were gone within a short span of time in an office of less than 30 workers.

I just had felt this dread when I was going to work.  When will the rest of our team be let go?  Then it happened.  On the Monday of our Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, an internal notice went out that the company was looking for a financial analyst.  There are three of us that fit that job description to a “T”.  Each one of us thought we were next.

Additionally, my wife was going through major changes in her work by becoming a real estate agent.  Her hours were all over the place.  Forget nine to five….it was more like nine to nine, plus weekends!  I used to think, what does a real estate agent actually do.  They have tons of free time.  Not anymore!  Now that I  know what a real estate agent does, I haven’t had those thoughts ever again!

Now that really wasn’t a trauma for me.  But it was a major change that took place in our marriage and relationship.  My wife was great at carving out a date night every Saturday night…and she has stuck to it since she became an agent almost three years ago.  But even then it was a change to our relationship, how we spoke with each other as I didn’t want to burden her with any trivialities.  So the weight on my chest would just weigh a bit heavier.

Then add to the above, work on the house.  We needed to get new eves troughs put on the house as we were experiencing ice dams and one of the eves troughs was just hanging on there for dear life.  I contracted a company who offered a reasonable rate to come out and start work.  However, that morning I had an appointment and couldn’t be there first thing.  So I mentioned to my wife, where we would like to have the downspouts put so we could drain the water away from the house.  By the time I got back from my appointment, two of the downspouts were in the wrong place.  I lost it!

I started swearing and cussing like you couldn’t imagine.  I felt like an explosion went off inside myself, like this was one of the last straws to bring on my breakdown.  I had to have both my wife and the contractor explain to me what was going on.  Even then, my wife had to pull me aside and explain it again, as I wasn’t hearing either of them from the explosion that just occurred.  I remember that she spoke quietly and softly and  finally I understood.

Certain physical illnesses and medications

Finally, certain physical illnesses or medications can cause a depressive mood.  I wasn’t on any medicine at the time of my breakdown, but I was crying a lot during the day while at work (see Insights for Parents of a depressed person for more).  After my mental and emotional breakdown I came down with the flu which lasted a couple of weeks.  That broke my spirits.  I was already tired from the depression, so with the flu I slept even more.  I was numb from the depression, so being sick just made me feel more empty.

Numb and Empty

Numbness and emptiness is another factor in depression.  And with feeling numb, I just felt nothing towards anything.  Things that used to be funny, no longer made me laugh.  Things I used to enjoy, like riding my motorcycle, didn’t even give me a slight lift in my mood.  It was like a I was a man…but somehow all the things that made up that man were wiped clean, like one would erase a chalk board.  There was a hollow emptiness where my joy, my pain, my pleasure, my hurt once was.  It was almost if you were to stick a needle in me, I wouldn’t even have noticed it.

People at work were wondering if I was mad as I seemed to be walking around the office with a scowl on my face the week leading up to my breakdown.  I wasn’t mad or angry, but maybe I had a frown or mad look on my face as I was trying to push back the depression.  In fact, I didn’t feel anything during the week leading up to my depression, other than the stress of work and the lack of enjoyment I had from doing my job which I previously loved.  In fact, all I wanted to do was to call in sick the two weeks leading up to my breakdown.

I remember being in a Costco after work during those two weeks and I was just heavily inhaling and exhaling, for no apparent reason.  I remember panting, not because I was tired or had over exerted myself.  But just due to the stress at work.  That’s how much it was affecting me.

What can you do about it?

This is where I would suggest looking into your family history and see if there was anyone who struggled with depression.  I know back in my parents day, they would try to hide such things, thinking it was a weakness or the person might be seen as crazy.  Was there any major changes, like a move or change to a new school or divorce that could affect your child?  Was there any trauma?  Physical illness or medications?

As you look into this further, hopefully you will be able to gain some insight into your child with depression.  And what may cause one child to have depression, may not affect your other children at all.  Digging deeper will help you to understand your child better and help to know what they may have gone through to get to their depressed state.  I would again suggest you try to figure these things by yourself as much as possible, without asking your child about them.  It could drive your child further into their depression and isolation if they are not in a place to work through these risk factors.  But have them ready for when your child is able to meet with a doctor, therapist or psychiatrist as you can give them further insight into themselves, when the time is right.

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