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Consequences Of Depression Left Untreated

Written by: Dr. Don Wood, PhD, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


My most recent article was on dealing with the causes of depression and the use of medications as treatment. It appears from the latest studies that depression may be a lot more complicated than simply seeing it as a low serotonin level or a chemistry imbalance in the brain.

Suicide, cut out of letters from a magazine.

When I speak with people about depression, I usually start by asking them if they have experienced any trauma throughout their lifetime. I believe trauma is one of the leading causes of depression. If the trauma is left unresolved, then the person gets stuck in a loop of trauma recall which becomes overwhelming to their minds. The effects of this continuous loop cause the mind to gear down to provide relief from the loop. Is it possible that depression is the minds protection against the effects and pain caused by the trauma loop? I believe so. The answer is to deal with the source of the depression, the trauma.

The next issue then becomes what happens when the trauma, and the resulting depression is left untreated? Routine screenings for depression should begin at the primary care provider level to better diagnose those who are traditionally undertreated. However, most people are unaware of the symptoms or the connection to their earlier trauma.

One of the areas I feel needs immediate attention is the effects of depression on teenagers and young adults. Lately, I have counseled multiple families dealing with the suicide of one of their younger family members. The entire family has to deal with the overwhelming grief and sense of loss.

This article will hopefully provide some insight and possibly help another family prevent one of these tragedies. What I observed from the last two families I counseled was the lack of clear indicators that suicide was being contemplated by their young family member. These were families that would be considered close-knit and engaged. Searching for answers as to why this would have happened came up short, there were no obvious signs. This then lead to them questioning their last conversations. Did they say something? Did they offend this person in some way? They may believe they missed an opportunity to give them an extra hug. These are good people, loving families, left grasping for a clue and it’s just not there. One of the families I assisted were very open with their teenager and discussed suicide, only to be assured by the child that it was not an option.

No government agencies have published any statistics on suicide for 2021 and 2022. It’s difficult to determine if the isolation created by the pandemic has had an effect on people who would not have necessarily been susceptible to depression and suicide in the past. Humans are social creatures and we thrive in activities involving other people. There are people who become lonely and isolated through normal conditions. We all know people who fall into this category through consequences like losing a job, divorce, or other life situations.

There are some obvious signs when someone is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. However, in the situations I mentioned above there were no obvious signs for these parents. This adds some extreme intensity to their grief. They get stuck in a loop of what did I miss, only to find nothing obvious. This is something I find concerning, I believe this is going to become something we start to see more often. Our youth, that normally wouldn’t be struggling with thoughts of suicide, now are. It’s not unusual for people to have a thought pop into their mind about it, however it doesn’t mean they would act upon it. Are we seeing more and more about it in the media and its normalizing the issue? Did the pandemic create a new issue never seen in our lives before? The pandemic created a lot of isolation and exacerbated social disconnection, even more than usual.

In people between the ages of 15 to 24, suicide is the second leading cause of death. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, close to 20% of high school students report having serious thoughts of suicide and of those high schoolers, 9% have made an attempt to take their lives. They are extremely vulnerable because so much emphasis is put on where they stand socially and developmentally. Their ability to make decisions and use judgment, reason, and logic is still developing. Their brain’s executive control center, the prefrontal cortex, isn’t fully developed until they reach their mid 20’s. This age group tends to be more impulsive because they don’t assess risks, consequences, or values the same way they will when they get older.

It’s important to note that not all people considering suicide appear outwardly upset or depressed. Sometimes people who appear self-reliant may have difficulty asking for help. In these cases, relying on other people and reaching out for help is difficult. They see one of their strengths as being strong, it seems so shameful or weak to ask for help and they just can't bring themselves to do it. They continue to take on more and more to look strong for other people. However, everyone has a breaking point. In my experience, I’ve seen this in families that have achieved financial success. The parents are professionally and/or financially successful and this can be overwhelming to a child growing up in this environment. The child may feel that their parents have achieved a level of success that is insurmountable to a young developing mind.

However, not all suicides are attributable to depression. It’s important to note that depression can be a risk factor for suicide, and yet not everyone who takes their life has been diagnosed with depression. For example, some people dealing with low self-esteem can be particularly susceptible. This certainly applies to the age group I mentioned above.

The most important thing is to proactively check in with the young people in your life to let them know you are available to listen. Not just when you think they may be struggling, even when they seem to be ok. It’s common to believe that talking about depression or suicide could somehow encourage self-harming behavior. Trust me, and they know more about it than you may think. If they are struggling, then let them know it’s ok to reach out for help. Professional help is better than just self-help remedies.

As I stated in this article, being a teenager in our society today is even more difficult than when I was a teenager. Teenagers face a lot of new pressures associated with the advancement of technology. Add to this the changes of puberty to questions about who they are and how they fit in. This transition from a child to an adult can also develop into parental conflict as teens start to assert their independence. This can create a lot of drama, which makes it considerably more difficult to distinguish between depression and normal teenage moodiness. To make things even more complicated, teens with depression may not necessarily appear sad and may not always withdraw from others. In some cases, depressed teens may display symptoms of irritability, aggression, and rage more prominently.

Here are some signs that a young person is experiencing depression.

  1. They openly discuss thoughts of death or suicide.

  2. They have difficulty focusing or concentrating, especially if it’s out of character from their usual behavior.

  3. They change their eating habits or develop eating disorders.

  4. They are not motivated or enthusiastic.

  5. They cry easily or become extremely emotional.

  6. They demonstrate feelings of being worthless.

  7. They feel powerless or hopeless.

  8. They are tired and lethargic.

  9. They withdraw from family and friends.

  10. They lose interest in activities they regularly participate in.

  11. They have difficulties or behavior issues at school.

Of course, it's important to keep in mind what is typical teenage or young adult behavior and what is out of the ordinary.

Here are some signs that a young person is experiencing suicidal intentions.

  1. They begin giving away important or prized possessions.

  2. If you hear them saying things like, “There’s no way out of this feeling,” “People would be better off if I was dead,” or “I wish I could just disappear.”

  3. They begin joking or talking about committing suicide.

  4. They begin writing stories or poems about dying, death, or suicide.

  5. You notice pills missing, weapons out of place or missing, or other methods to end their life.

  6. They start saying goodbyes to friends and family that seem final.

  7. You hear them talking positively about death or making it sound romantic, like, “people will really miss me when I’m gone.”

  8. They begin engaging in dangerous behaviors or begin having a lot of injuries.

It would be nice if every suicide was avoided. However, we should remain diligent in looking for clues. Sometimes these clues are subtle. For example, a mother told me how her daughter asked her to make sure she told Dad that I loved him when he got home. That could have easily slipped by except the mother repeated it verbatim to the father when he arrived home not picking up on the past tense “loved.” The father immediately heard it and rushed in to find a bottle of blood pressure pills empty on the floor and the daughter was non-responsive. She survived. A few minutes later that wouldn’t have been the case. Suicide prevention needs a comprehensive and diversified public health strategy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed various programs and practices to help prevent suicide.

The best advice for parents and families is to maintain a safe, supportive, and nonjudgmental communication channels with children. This is particularly true if they are at high risk. If a parent or family member suspects their children or loved ones are contemplating suicide, immediately seek assistance and guidance from a mental health expert. And there it is!

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Read more from Dr. Wood!


Dr. Don Wood, PhD, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Don Wood, PhD, author, speaker, Founder & CEO of the Inspired Performance Institute, and creator of the patented TIPP method. TIPP is a cutting-edge method inspired and developed through the newest developments in neuroscience and designed to clear away the effects of disturbing or traumatic events, repurpose old patterns and set the individual’s mind up for peak performance. In essence, it “REBOOTs” the brain’s stuck thought pattern, making it possible to enhance alpha oscillations with a noninvasive and effective shift in brain wave activity. Author of two top selling books, Emotional Concussions and You Must Be Out of your Mind.


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