Living With Depression

The Personal Experience

“Self Portrait” – Frida Kahlo“Self Portrait” – Frida Kahlo Patients living with depression have enormous obstacles to overcome. Recognizing in oneself the symptoms and signs of depression can be difficult. People who suffer from depression describe the experience as a feeling of isolation, a feeling of being cut off from the people around them, almost of being “emotionally underwater”, of losing interest in physical contact and in sexual relationships, and of excessive worry. They may lack any energy in getting out of bed or to leave home. They may become emotionally distant and not talk to others. They may blame themselves for a moral defect for persistently feeling down. Although some may become aware their feelings are not normal, they may not want to seek help due to fear of stigma or fear of institutionalization. Cultural and social factors may make it even more difficult to seek help. In some cultures, it is not appropriate to discuss feeling depressed or may be seen as an “imaginary disease”. Men may feel that being depressed is a sign of weakness, and because discussing feelings is not “masculine” – may make males feel even more isolated. Depression is an agonizing experience.

Watch a video clip – Mood Disorders: The Personal Experience

From ABC News 2002 ‘Cries From The Dark: A Backpack Full of Bricks’ – CBS Correspondant Mike Wallace, ABC Correspondant Ted Koppel, and Professor of Psychiatry Kay Redfield Jamison – John Hopkins School of Medicine.

With treatment and education, persons with depression can have functional and meaningful lives. It requires ongoing personal acknowledgement of the illness, and surveillance and recognition of signs. It requires the support of family and friends. A compassionate and vigilant primary care physician should also be part of depression monitoring and support.

The Effect On Families

The effect and impact on family, friends, and coworkers of a person who suffers from depression can be tremendous. Their families and friends may not recognize depressive symptoms, or dismiss the signs as either a normal reaction to life events, or ascribe the symptoms as the person being “difficult” or “moody”. Some friends and families may stop socializing with a depressed loved one because the experience can be difficult or frustrating. They may begin to resent the depressed person. Even when depression is evident, families and friends may believe that a person can just “stop” being depressed, or that the person with depression is “acting out” at them. Others may think that they may be the sole solution to solving their loved one’s depression (e.g., “Maybe if I do things differently? Maybe if I can kid them out of their depression? Maybe if we went on vacations more often?”), or may suffer tremendous guilt about the situation. It can be difficult for families to accept the illness. Some families become socially isolated over secrecy over their loved one’s condition. Families and friends benefit by learning about the illness of depression, and understanding what is not in their control and how they can be supportive. Support groups for friends and families of those living with depression also exist. Family and friends also have to find time to take care of themselves. Primary care physicians can be very effective in education and providing support to family and friends.

Watch a video clip – Mood Disorders: One Family’s Experience

From ABC News 2002 ‘Cries From The Dark: A Backpack Full of Bricks’ – Senator Gordon Smith and his family.

The Arts and Depression

The arts have long explored the experience of living with depression and its’ effects on others. Film, plays, books, and art can provide us with window into the world of a person coping with chronic depression and associated mental health illnesses. A physician can learn much empathy and compassion for these persons thorough these powerful artistic expressions.


Ordinary People” (1980)
Director: Robert Redford

Pollock” (2000)
Director: Ed Harris

The Snake Pit” (1948)

Director: Anatole Litvak

Sophie’s Choice” (1982)
Director: Alan Pakula

Reality Bites” (1994)
Director: Ben Stiler

Wild Strawberries” (1957)

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Monster in a Box

Playwright: Spalding Gray

“Gray’s Anatomy” (1994)
Playwright: Spalding Gray

“Proof” (2001)
Playwright: David Auburn

“4.48 Psychosis” (1999)
Playwright: Sarah Kane

“The Bell Jar” (1963)
Author: Sylvia Plath

“The Sorrows of Young Werther” (1774)
Author: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression” (2002)
Edited by: Nell Casey

“Girl Interrupted” (1994)
Author: Susanna Kaysen

“One True Thing” (2006)
Author: Anna Quindlen


“On the Threshold of Eternity / At Eternity’s Gate / Old Man in Sorrow” – Vincent Van Gogh

“The Scream” – Edvard Munch

“Self Portrait” – Frida Kahlo

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