Understanding Depression

Q. My husband thinks that depression is a choice. Is this true?

A. My first response to this question is a painful one. I think about the suffering of my numerous depressed patients and wonder why they need to face the additional burden of being held responsible for a medical condition like major depression. However, I expect your husband was referring not to the medical condition of “major depression” but to something he observed in your outlook or attitude—a sadness, gloom, pessimism or moodiness. He may be suggesting that you should look at your glass as half-full instead of half-empty. Major depression is a serious medical condition characterized by low mood, loss of pleasure or interest in life activities, and problems with sleep, appetite, energy levels and concentration. Self-esteem may suffer and there may be preoccupation with death or dying. Depression significantly diminishes quality of life, worsens the course of other illnesses the patient may have, and can even result in early death, sometimes by suicide. Choice is hard to define with any medical condition. Patients don’t choose to acquire any medical condition, including depression, but their lifestyle and coping choices can complicate or improve their symptoms. In depression, it’s important to focus on good nutrition, regular exercise, healthy sleep cycles, remaining active in pleasurable activities, confronting negative thinking habits, fostering enriching relationships, and adhering to treatment recommendations. These are difficult tasks for a depressed patient, but they are critically important and helpful. If you or someone you love is suffering from depression, please contact your physician.

Mohsin Ali, M.D.

Board-Certified in Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Behavioral Health of Ooltewah, A SkyRidge Health Partner

6711 Mountain View Road

Suite 119

Ooltewah, TN 37363

(423) 238-1191