Chances are, someone you know is currently suffering from, or has at some point suffered from a mental illness. Depression is a very common condition and with it will often come one or more added disorders. For example, anxiety and panic disorders often coincide with major clinical depressive disorders. The National Institute for Mental Health reports over 40% of Americans experiencing one mental disorder also met standards for at least one other.
Another unfortunate combination is that of depression with various personality disorders, or Borderline Personality Disorder. BPD is particularly difficult because even as the sufferer attempts to gain understanding and acceptance, he or she inevitably feels alone and lost, paranoid and erratic; such is one of the most damning symptoms of this illness. The patient with BPD will behave in unstable and inappropriate ways, often so self-focused that they are unaware of the outlandish nature of their actions.
People with this disorder are prone to outbursts, yet are typically upset with themselves afterwords. This is as opposed to someone with anti-social tendencies, who would remain unaware of their impact, moving right along once they themselves were “over it”. People with BPD are likely to have some issues with social settings and relationships, but this is entirely different than displaying anti-social tendencies.
People with major depressive or personality disorders often feel like the world is caving in on them, as if no one could understand the burden they face. They may also feel as if they are not good enough, or strong enough. According to statistics on file with the NIMH, as many as 50 million people in America each year are affected by BPD and similar illnesses. these people may feel completely alone, even when surrounded by friends and loved ones. They may attach themselves easily to people, and feel horribly rejected and looked down upon with even the smallest judgment passed, or hint of rejection. Accepting criticism is hard for people suffering BPD, and it can make keeping a job and maintaining personal relationships difficult.
People suffering BPD and other similar disorders are also prone to having issues with impulse control. While behavior modification therapy and medications can help improve some symptoms of this disorder, this is a very difficult aspect. Certain medications such as Serotonin work to elevate the depression itself, but without changing the decision-making pathology, this new energy burst can be just enough to allow patients to engage in risky behavior. This is why I personally believe suicide risks can elevate when taking or altering routines with anti-depressant medications; not enough juice to change the thought-process, just enough to amp up the motivation.
Patients with depressive and personality disorders are more at risk for being victimized, having addiction problems, and they are more likely to engage in risky sexual activities. Destructive behaviors such as lying, manipulating, self-harm, and stealing also fit the pattern for these illnesses.
So how do you know what to look for in your friends and family, or even yourself? Do some research. You may know some of the symptoms already, and others may be new to you. It pays to be informed, and it could even help save a life.
Sign of Depressive Disorders:
-Lack of interest, especially in things the person previously enjoyed.
-Changes in eating and sleep patterns.
-Intense mood swings; up one day, down the next, repeatedly and over a period of time.
-Person is exhibiting isolating behaviors, even if this person is usually sociable.
-Physical ailments with no other independent cause known to the person or their doctors.
-Insomnia, and/or difficulty awakening from sleep.
-Risky or inappropriate behaviors and actions.
-Exhibits feelings of self-loathing, or intense anger directed at oneself.
-Irritable with others, including loved ones.
-Feelings of deep sadness persist weeks, even months beyond what would be considered “normal” following upsetting events.
Ways You Can Help:
If someone you know is depressed, sometimes all that is required is to be there. Be alert to signs that this person may be trying to reach out to you. It can be hard for people experiencing such mental struggles to communicate effectively, or initiate a conversation about themselves, as they often feel unsubstantial and unimportant. Pay attention for opportunities to draw them out a bit; allow them to feel understood when they open up to you, even if you don’t fully understand. This person does not expect you to “fix” them; they may simply need to be heard. If you make yourself available, you will prove of great use to a person suffering this type of ailment.
Look for signs of improvement, or deterioration. If there is improvement, help the person keep track of what seemed to be working for them at the time the change was noted. Likewise, if there is a downward spiral, try to help your loved one figure out what triggered it, and what will help bring it to a halt. Listen to your loved one, and be aware of any sudden or drastic changes in their outlook.
This is but a fraction of information on this subject. As someone who suffers from depression, and who knows many others who do as well, I could write a tome on the subject. And perhaps I will. However, nothing here is intended to diagnose anything, nor endorse any specific treatment at this time.
For more information, or if you think you may have a mental health problem that needs to be addressed by a professional, please consult with your doctor.
If you are feeling ‘in crisis’, or someone you know is threatening suicide, call 911, or the Suicide Prevention Hot line:1-800-273-8255.