While great societal shifts have been taking place for the LGBTQ community, depression is still seen at a rate two and a half times the national average. When combined with gender issues, lesbians have an even higher rate of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse as well as higher smoking rates. The major reasons for these rates is thought to be a result of continued societal stress around issues of minority status, gender biases, internalized homophobia, and lack of familial and community support. Situations can also spark depression, bad health habits, social and work related stressors, bodily changes, all can be contributing factors. The brain can also develop glitches in it’s neuro-chemical and electrical functioning for no apparent reason. As a result of the new brain mapping technologies, exciting new theories and treatment options are being generated, showing great promise. Research is just now truly beginning to unravel how the brain works!
Depression is not just about feeling sad, it is a medical illness with a cluster of symptoms that persist for at least 2 weeks. According to the National Institute of Mental Health the following symptoms can describe depression:
· Fatigue and decreased energy
· Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
· Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
· Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
· Irritability, restlessness
· Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including
· Overeating or appetite loss
· Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
that do not ease even with treatment
· Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
· Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Can Depression be prevented?
While depression is very treatable, not all depression is preventable especially with unexpected chemical malfunctioning of the brain, just as with any unexpected illness. Research does show that good health habits, good eating, exercise, limited substance use like alcohol, no cigarettes, good support systems, doing more for others, internal check of automatic negative thinking, all contribute to good mental health.
Christie Driskell, LICSW
If you want to know more, Christie will be at the 15th Rainbow Health Fair to answer your questions.