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Major Depression and Its Serious Complications

When suffering from major depression (officially called major depressive disorder), people have different ways of confronting it. Some depressed individuals acknowledge its existence, face it just like any medical problem, and seek help. Some ignore it as if it doesn’t exist. And others simply accept that it’s there but they don’t do anything about it. In fact, they don’t even ask for help.

Those who ignore and don’t do anything run the risk of developing serious complications. Like any medical disorder, untreated major depression has its hazards.

What are some of the complications of major depression? How serious are they?

Suicidality

Without treatment, some depressed individuals feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. Gradually, thoughts of death occur. They sometimes feel that there’s no reason for them to live and that they are better-off dead than alive. Some even wish that they should not wake up in the morning.

As the illness worsens, suicidality eventually follows. When this happens, depressed individuals develop thoughts of harming themselves. Some even attempt and are successful in killing themselves through overdosing, hanging, wrist slashing, jumping from a tall building, or shooting.

Homicidal Behavior

Although rare, homicidal behavior is possible. As depression becomes severe, individuals are susceptible to cause harm as they develop impaired judgment. Some have frequent ideas of harming others including their loved ones.

Some become a threat to society as they kill others by drowning, shooting, or using a knife. Recent stories in the media have shown how unrecognized and untreated mental illness can be devastating to many families.

Psychosis

Major depression also causes disturbances in perception and thinking. Some depressed individuals experience auditory hallucinations (hearing voices) and delusions (false fixed beliefs). Some hear voices telling them that they’re “no good” or that they “can’t amount to anything.” At times, auditory hallucinations can manifest as commands telling them to harm themselves or others.

Delusions can range from suspiciousness to bizarre beliefs. Some think that people are talking about them or that their spouses are out to get them. Occasionally, they develop the beliefs that they’re the “Anointed One,” that they have a special mission to “cleanse the world of evil.”

Functional Impairment

It’s common for depressed individuals to develop poor energy and loss of interest to do their usual activities. These individuals stay in bed the whole day and can hardly do chores. Even answering the phone becomes a huge endeavor. Some depressed parents can’t attend to their children’s needs. How can they help when they can’t even look after themselves?

Because of impaired concentration, they can’t finish a simple task or a work-related project. As a result, their performance at work seriously suffers. Work absences, job losses, and eventually financial problems may be the unavoidable result.

Relationship Problems

Because of continuing behavioral and thought disturbances, some family members don’t understand what is going on. It is not uncommon to see unsupportive friends, spouses, parents, and children during these difficult times. Fights, ridicule, name-calling, and arguments among family members further aggravate the volatile situation.

As relationships become more strained, depressed individuals have more reason to isolate themselves from friends and relatives. They don’t even bother to answer the phone or to open the door for visiting family members.

In summary, major depression, like hypertension, has fatal consequences. Ignoring it is too risky. Doing nothing is a grave mistake. Early recognition and timely administration of treatment can prevent its unwanted complications.

by Michael G. Rayel, MD -

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Dr. Michael G. Rayel - author, game inventor, and psychiatrist - has created the Oikos Game Series to promote emotional health and has provided EQ Webinar for parenting, personal, and career success. For more info, visit www.oikosglobal.com or www.psychedu.com.