Depression Disconnect: GeneSight Mental Health Monitor Finds Most People with Depression Feel Deeply Misunderstood
It can impact your life in multiple ways beyond feeling sad. For one, you may not have the energy or drive to seek the treatment you know, deep down, that you need.
Amanda describes her depression like this:
“I had trouble getting out of bed. I had trouble taking care of my daughter. I had trouble letting other people watch her. I had trouble doing anything from laundry to dishes, to just everyday things, making friends, hanging out with my friends, hanging out with my family. It was debilitating.”
“I definitely wanted to cry all the time. And when I didn’t want to cry, I was angry or frustrated over something because depression isn’t necessarily just sadness. It presents in anger and frustration and you take it out on the people closest to you and it’s hard. You start losing people and then you feel more isolated because people aren’t understanding that this isn’t who you are, it’s this illness that’s taking you over.”
“It’s a mental illness that you can’t control. Not that it’s right to treat people bad, but when you’re in that place, it’s hard to see what you’re doing. And it’s hard to keep those relationships.”
Support from a loved one can play a meaningful role in your recovery – if that person can offer loving support and acceptance. Unfortunately, not everyone understands how it feels to have a major depressive disorder and why it can be so hard to seek treatment.
In a new nationwide poll, the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor found that 83% of people living with depression say life would be easier if others could understand their depression. Yet, most people who have not experienced depression may not be able to understand the daily challenges faced by people living with depression and going through depression treatment.
GeneSight and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) have teamed up to help bridge the depression understanding disconnect. The goal is to raise awareness and understanding for how a person who has major depressive disorder feels, and why it can be so hard to seek treatment.
“Depression is one of the most misunderstood disorders. When people misinterpret depressed patients as ‘lazy’ or ‘dramatic,’ they are vastly underestimating and misunderstanding the debilitating symptoms of major depressive disorder,” said Dr. Mark Pollack, chief medical officer at Myriad Neuroscience, makers of the GeneSight test. “That is why we are working with the DBSA so that loved ones can offer more empathetic support and depressed patients won’t feel so alone.”
Lack of Understanding and Empathy about Depression
According to the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, three out of four people living with depression said they wanted support from their loved ones, including just listening or saying supportive things like: “How can I help?” or “Do you want to talk about it?” Instead, nearly half of those with depression said they were more likely to hear statements like “You need to get over it/snap out of it” or “We all get sad sometimes.”
“Depression is a serious but treatable medical condition that affects how a person feels, thinks, and acts. Though typically characterized by feelings of sadness, depression symptoms may appear as irritability or apathy,” said Dr. Michael Thase, professor of psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and the Corporal Michael J Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and DBSA scientific advisory board member.
This misunderstanding may lead to the depressed person turning away from seeking support from loved ones and being unwilling to seek needed treatment, due to embarrassment.
Nearly half of those either diagnosed with depression or concerned they may have depression say they feel ashamed/embarrassed when others found out they were suffering from depression, according to the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor.
“We must work together – providers and patients and family and friends – to continue to reduce the impact of stigma,” Dr. Thase said. “
The Challenge in Seeking Depression Treatment
Misunderstanding the disorder may lead to people feeling embarrassed and/or unwilling to seek the treatment they need.”
Depression treatment plans may incorporate a combination of therapy and medications. While therapy provides patients with coping tools and social support, medications may balance the brain’s levels of neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals that influence mood and reaction to new information.
More than half of those diagnosed with depression indicated in the poll that they started a new medication since the start of the pandemic. Yet, for some, starting a new depression medication doesn’t result in success. Half of those diagnosed with depression said they have tried 4 or more depression medications in their lifetime, with nearly 1 in 4 respondents reporting they have tried 6 or more medications to try to find relief.
“I couldn’t get out of bed to take care of my children, much less go to the doctor multiple times to try new medicines that ‘might’ help,” said Amanda. “The years of trial and error were so frustrating and discouraging. You feel like you are stuck living that way.”
Those who indicated that they had experienced the trial-and-error process described it as:
- “On a rollercoaster” (51%)
- “I’m just waiting for the next side effect” (45%)
- “Walking through a maze blindfolded” (44%)
- “Playing a game of darts, only I’m the dartboard” (42%)
While 4 in 10 of those diagnosed with depression say they are not confident that their depression medications will work for them, 7 in 10 would feel “hopeful” if their doctor recommended a genetic test as part of their treatment plan.
Genetic testing, like the GeneSight Psychotropic test, analyzes how a patient’s genes may affect their outcomes with medications commonly prescribed to treat depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions.
“With just a simple cheek swab, the GeneSight test provides your clinician with information about which medications may require dose adjustments, may be less likely to work, or may have an increased risk of side effects based on a patient’s genetic makeup,” said Dr. Pollack. “It’s one of many tools in a physician’s toolbox that may help get patients on the road to feeling more like themselves again.”
Conquering the Depression Disconnect
While 4 in 5 adults said that they are more conscious about their own or others’ mental health challenges than they were before the pandemic began, less than half of adults are very confident they can recognize if a loved one is suffering from depression, according to the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor.
Please consider turning to the following resources to learn more about how you can support loved ones who may be living with depression:
- To experience just a few of the everyday challenges of living with depression, visit KnowMentalHealth.com
- More information about the Depression Disconnect Campaign can be found here: https://genesight.com/knowmentalhealth/resources/.
- Depression Treatment Tools: DBSA Wellness Tracker, DBSA Wellness Wheel, GeneSight Genetic Testing.
- DBSA Support Groups: local groups and online groups.
Our articles are for informational purposes only and are reviewed by our Medical Information team, which includes PharmDs, MDs, and PhDs. Do not make any changes to your current medications or dosing without consulting your healthcare provider.
The GeneSight test must be ordered by and used only in consultation with a healthcare provider who can prescribe medications. As with all genetic tests, the GeneSight test results have limitations and do not constitute medical advice. The test results are designed to be just one part of a larger, complete patient assessment, which would include proper diagnosis and consideration of your medical history, other medications you may be taking, your family history, and other factors.
If you are a healthcare provider and interested in learning more about the GeneSight test, please call us at 855.891.9415. If you are a patient, please talk with your doctor to see if the GeneSight test may be helpful.