How does a self-described, happy-go-lucky extrovert go from being a hands-on parent to explicitly ignoring his children, desperately waiting each night for 9 pm to come because it is their bedtime?
“I became an unemotional depressed person,” says Dennis L., who lives in Pennsylvania. “I went from non-stop playing with my kids to doing absolutely NOTHING with them. I was barely speaking to my wife, kids and family.”
Many sufferers may share that their depression has gotten in the way of their lives: their relationships, their work, their physical health and/or their desire to participate in activities they once enjoyed.
Dennis describes it as feeling like he “was in a glass box – I was watching everyone else live their lives. Every second of every day was pure torture.”
The GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, a 2020 national survey of adults about their attitudes regarding depression, looks at the severity of how depression impacts the lives of depressed people and their loved ones. It quantifies what people like Dennis know from experience to be true.
The Serious Impact of Depression on Daily Lives
According to the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, which compiled information from 650 people over age 18, depression has a significant impact on the lives of those afflicted.
Of those surveyed who are currently diagnosed with depression, 67% either somewhat or completely agreed that depression has interfered with their personal relationships and prevented them from participating in activities they normally enjoy. Of those surveyed who are over age 65, 47% agree.
Like Dennis, Doreen S., a wife, mother and retiree from Ohio, who prior to depression considered herself to be very social, didn’t want to be around people anymore.
“When I first experienced depression, it happened all of a sudden. It was like a cloud happened in my head,” Doreen said. “I would cry, I didn’t want to eat, and didn’t want to have a thing to do with anyone. I was so sad and cried constantly.”
Depression impacts more than personal relationships for people like Dennis and Doreen:
- 56% somewhat or completely agree that depression has made other aspects of their health worse. Of those surveyed who are over age 65, 34% agree.
- 55% somewhat or completely agree that depression has interfered with their work/career performance.
Dennis can relate to that final statistic.
“It got bad. Really bad…,” Dennis said. “On the way to the job site one day, I pulled over into a parking lot. I couldn’t drive anymore. All I wanted to do was sleep. I couldn’t move. My guys had to finish the job themselves.”
Depression Impact Goes Beyond the Individual
The GeneSight Mental Health Monitor results drive home the reality that depression is a significant barrier to functioning in daily life for a large percentage of depressed people. Depression may negatively impact all aspects of their lives: their family and friends, their physical health, their jobs, their ability to do what they love and many other elements.
What also becomes clear is that when the people are not able to function effectively, the impact goes beyond the personal.
An article in Scientific American reports that “depression in America costs society $210 billion per year … yet only 40% of this sum is associated with depression itself… Most of the costs of depression are for related mental illnesses, such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as for physical illnesses, such as back disorders, sleep disorders and migraines.”
In addition to the cost of additional illnesses related to depression, there is the cost associated with “elevated levels of absenteeism and presenteeism (people who show up for work but are less productive because of their illness),” according to the article in Scientific American. “In fact, for every dollar spent treating depression, an additional $4.70 is spent on direct and indirect costs of related illnesses, and another $1.90 is spent on a combination of reduced workplace productivity and the economic costs associated with suicide directly linked to depression.”
The Challenge of Finding Effective Treatment
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is typically treated through medication, talk therapy – or a combination of the two.
The STAR*D trial, which evaluated depression treatment, found that fewer than 40% of the participants achieved depression remission after several weeks of the first medication protocol. Further, subsequent depression treatments saw even less of a chance for remission: only 31% achieved remission after the second treatment, 14% after the third and 13% after the fourth.
“The trial-and-error process is where patients lose confidence. They also lose time and the opportunity to make good memories when they are feeling bad and you are experimenting with different medications,” says Dr. Ada N. Ifesinachukwu, MD.
The GeneSight Mental Health Monitor found that of Americans aged 65 or older who have taken antidepressants, 60% have had to switch to a different medication due to medication failure and three in four respondents needed to try more than one antidepressant during their treatment.
As someone 65 plus, Doreen shared how frustrating – and frightening – the trial-and-error process was.
“I began to see one doctor, then another, to help deal with my depression. They tried many, many different medications and none seemed to work. The medications made me worse and worse,” Doreen said. “I was getting frightened and was having to go to the hospital. I felt my psychiatrists wouldn’t listen to me – they just keep changing the medicines.”
Doreen’s doctor ordered the GeneSight test, which analyzes how a person’s genes may affect their outcomes with medications commonly prescribed to treat depression and other mental health conditions. The test provides the doctor 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 the patient’s genetic makeup.
“You know how you use a map to go on a journey? It was almost like the test helped my doctor create a map, and I felt for the first time like I had a clear path to getting better,” said Doreen. “I started feeling great. I got back to smiling, being happy and laughing again. I got back to being me.”
Dennis also improved significantly after his doctor used his GeneSight test to prescribe a new antidepressant. He said that after “getting on medication that helped me, I feel like I was reborn. I am me again. I am amazed. And I am grateful.”
Finding the Way Back to Feeling Normal
Based on the results of the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, it becomes clear that the impact of depression on the lives of depressed people is multifaceted. People with depression need a clear path to healing, so they can return to their normal lives as quickly and effectively as possible.
For more information about the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, please read our news release here.
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. 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.