Station Pride Articles

Firefighter Depression

Secret Signs of Hidden Depression

People who suffer from secret or concealed depression usually do not want to acknowledge how serious their feelings are. They often put on a “happy face” for others so they do not feel judged. Click HERE to find out what the six signs of concealed depression are.

DEPRESSION

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a constant feeling of sadness, hopelessness, anger, and loss of interest in everyday life for a long period of time. The exact cause of depression is unknown, however, many researchers believe that depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Norepinephrine, seratonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that transmit electrical signals between brain cells) thought to be involved with major depression. It is believed that there is an increased risk for developing depression if there is a family history of the illness. However, people who do not have a family history of depression can still develop this mood disorder.

About 19 million Americans battle depression annually. Depression is estimated to contribute to half of all suicides. About 5%-10% of women and 2%-5% of men will experience at least one major depressive episode during their adult life. Depression affects people of all races, incomes, ages, and ethnic and religious backgrounds, but it is three to five times more common in the elderly than in young people.

“Some types of depression seem to run in families”

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Certain personality traits such as low self-esteem, physical or sexual abuse, financial issues, and the death of a loved one can often times trigger depression in some people. While it has long been believed that depression caused people to misuse alcohol and drugs in an attempt to make themselves feel better (self-medication), it is now thought that substance abuse can actually cause depression. Some illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and certain medications may also trigger depressive episodes. It is also important to note that many depressive episodes occur spontaneously and are not triggered by a life crisis, physical illness or other risks.

 

There is no single cause of major depression. Psychological, biological and environmental factors may all contribute to its development. Whatever the specific causes of depression, scientific research has firmly established that major depression is a biological, medical illness.

 A number of factors can play a role in depression:

  • Life events or situations, such as: Breaking up with a significant other, illness or death in the family, or parents divorcing (for adolescents)
  • Repetitive traumatic calls
  • Childhood events, such as abuse or neglect
  • Divorce, death of a friend or relative, or loss of a job (for adults)
  • Social isolation (common in the elderly)
  • Medical conditions such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), medications (such as sedatives and high blood pressure medications), cancer, major illness, or prolonged pain
  • Sleeping problems, Sleep deprivation
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

Symptoms

  • Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
  • Dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
  • Extreme difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
  • Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed (such as sex)
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
  • Depression can appear as anger and discouragement, rather than as feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Use of alcohol or illegal substances may be more likely to occur.
  • Even Medicines that you take for other problems could cause or worsen depression, check with your doctor.

 Treatment

  • Medicines that you take for other problems could cause or worsen depression. You may need to change them. DO NOT change or stop taking any of your medications without consulting your doctor.
  • People who are so severely depressed that they are unable to function, or who are suicidal and cannot be safely cared for in the community may need to be treated in a psychiatric hospital.
  • Most people benefit from antidepressant drug therapy, along with psychotherapy. As treatment takes effect, negative thinking diminishes. It takes time to feel better, but there are usually day-to-day improvements.
  • Antidepressant medications work by increasing the availability of neurotransmitters or by changing the sensitivity of the receptors for these chemical messengers.

Prevention

  • Take medications correctly and learn how to manage side effects.
  • Learn to watch for early signs that depression is becoming worse and know how to react when it does.
  • Try to exercise more, seek out other activities that bring you pleasure, and maintain good sleep habits.
  • Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs. These substances can make the depression worse over time, and may also impair your judgment about suicide.
  • When struggling with your depression, talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. Try to be around people who are caring and positive.
  • Try volunteering or getting involved in group activities.

“therapy teaches depressed people ways of fighting negative thoughts”

Types of help (See also Types of Counseling)

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches depressed people ways of fighting negative thoughts. People can learn to be more aware of their symptoms, learn what seems to make depression worse, and learn problem-solving skills.
  • Psychotherapy can help someone with depression understand the issues that may be behind their behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Joining a support group of people who are experiencing problems like yours can also help. Ask your therapist or doctor for a recommendation.

You can take a personal assessment  here.

 

About FireStrong.org (11 Articles)
Firestrong is an online resource for members of the Fire Service and their families. The mission of Firestrong is to offer mental, emotional, and physical support to each member of the fire department and their families by providing educational tools, resources, crisis intervention assistance (crisis line) and peer support services.

1 Comment on Firefighter Depression

  1. David walker // April 17, 2017 at 12:56 am // Reply

    Chronic pain is not mentioned in your article but has long been considered a contributing factor. It also can be a normal part of an extended career.

    Like

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