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Writing a character with diagnosed depression?



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Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:27 am
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AvantCoffee says...



So, I tried to find an existing thread focusing on depression, however most covered mental illness as a whole and didn't delve into the everyday experience. Although I've had my own grapple it never became serious enough to be prescribed meds, so my perspective only stretches so far.

Here are some questions I hope to have answered:
What specific types of meds are taken for depression, and how is this managed?
What are the everyday struggles of depression while on meds?
What are the everyday struggles of depression while off meds?
How does depression affect a person (thoughts/behaviours/overall living etc.)?
Last edited by AvantCoffee on Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:39 am
Traves says...



Great question.
I also have a similar story (adult male, depressed, characters of the story are his memories and tendencies)on hold because of the same reasons, so I'd really appreciate an answer to this, and if possible add a question or two of mine -
1. What are the odds of him responding in an engaged/interested manner to attempts of conversation of a jovial stranger/acquaintance? How do they vary with mood?
2. How self aware and alert the person might be in an ordinary surrounding, say a café or bar?
  





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Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:43 am
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Rydia says...



So I'm not sure if I'm best placed to answer this but I have a few friends who are on depression meds so I can give it a go from an outsider/ external viewpoint. I don't know how the meds make them feel/ think though:

1. What specific types of meds are taken for depression, and how is this managed?

Most depression meds are self managed with the patient having to take them at the correct times. The common meds used in the UK are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (both my friends are on these, though there are different kinds and each takes a different one - dapoxetine for one and I'm not sure which the other takes except it's not the same) but I expect there are others too. One of my friends meets with a behavioural therapist on a regular basis while the other does not. The friend who does has said they're always checking if she has taken her meds or not.

2. What are the everyday struggles of depression while on meds?

I think anxiety is the big one. The meds can make people a little bit nervous/ high strung and sometimes this results in needing to take regular breaks from group activities or just not being able to cope so well with situations that would only be a mild stress for others. Like, if two people are having a slightly heated debate, this could cause upset.

3. What are the everyday struggles of depression while off meds?

I've not seen either of my friends while off meds so I can't answer this one I'm afraid.

4. How does clinical depression affect the perspective of a person

Sometimes just getting out of the house is impossible for them. One of my uni friends (not either of the above) had a mild depression that was nevertheless long term and there were days he just couldn't leave the house. He missed our university prom because of it and it was so sad.

5. What are the odds of him responding in an engaged/interested manner to attempts of conversation of a jovial stranger/acquaintance? How do they vary with mood?

Depressed people do respond in an engaged manner, especially when on meds. I always get greeted very brightly by my two friends mentioned above. There are rare occasions/ bad days when they are a little quieter but normally they ask us not to come over on those days/ don't come out to our group. If we are already over when my friend starts to feel anxious, she will apologise and go upstairs as she finds quiet calms her. She will not normally come back down that night and will instead read/ do something quietly before going to bed. But she does have some control/ suppression over this as she has never excused herself mid-game.

6. How self aware and alert the person might be in an ordinary surrounding, say a café or bar?

This honestly depends on the person's personality I would say. I don't think the meds make either of my friends particularly fuzzy or not self aware. One is a gamer and definitely still sharp enough to beat me at difficult strategy games/ to interact with the group. My friend from uni with the mild depression more often would get lost in himself if on his own at the bar or park but then, he rarely went out on his own. He found leaving the house hard enough already but without company or the plans to meet up with someone, I just don't think he would leave. It's only if someone cancelled on him that he might end up alone and then might ask one or more of us to come hang out instead. I think when out of the house he liked to have company but when in the house he'd more often shut himself in his room.
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Mon Nov 26, 2018 12:51 pm
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AvantCoffee says...



Thank you so much, @Rydia! You have no idea how helpful your answers are. :)
If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
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Mon Nov 26, 2018 1:04 pm
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lemonboi says...



hi!
So I'm not exactly an adult male, but I still want to help if that's okay. It's different for everyone, but if you don't mind, I'll try to share some of my own experience. It usually comes hand in hand with anxiety, which is how it affects me, but I also experience crippling dysphoria.

So
What specific types of meds are taken for depression, and how is this managed?

I don't take any meds at the moment, but I'm on the order list for them. Antidepressants are daily I believe. The user has to be careful, though, because they can easily become a crutch.

What are the everyday struggles of depression while on meds?

This I also can't exactly answer.

What are the everyday struggles of depression while off meds? How does clinical depression affect the perspective of a person (thoughts/behaviours/overall living etc.)?

Everyday struggles would be finding the motivation to do things. I just find myself so drained and drowsy all the time that I put things off. Things I love like art, I just don't do as much because I don't trust my hands and I'm always uninspired.
I'm also irritated a lot. It's a struggle not to suddenly lash out on people for the littlest thing. But that's only some days.
I get into this distracted, distant mood where I'm talking to someone, but I'm not all there, or this other feeling where I'm watching everything happen and I'm not there at all.
I daydream a lot.
I put myself down. For little stupid things. All the time. Every second, I'm focusing on what I'm doing and usually if I'm with another person and something messes up I'm like "you idiot" and go off yelling at myself internally.
I have an, I guess, high? I'm convinced sort of that coffee makes me feel better but I'm addicted to the way it makes me feel... Worse?
I just stop caring about my health because, hell, what's the point?
Random burst of energy, but I don't.know what to do with it? Then it forms into anxiety.

I don't know, I've never had to explain it before, so I hope this makes sense. And I hope it helps. Good Luck!!
Lemon
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Mon Nov 26, 2018 2:40 pm
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zaminami says...



As someone officially diagnosed about two years ago, I think I can help!

What specific types of meds are taken for depression, and how is this managed?

Now, I'm 15 years old, so this might be different, but I used to take Prozac once a day at night and now take Zoloft once a day at night. However, Prozac is mainly a depression medicine and Zoloft is mainly an anxiety medicine. Prozac is taken in a capsule and Zoloft is just the straight pill. I don't know much about the medicines themselves, but they're pretty easy to search up.

What are the everyday struggles of depression while on meds?

Okay so let me get this straight: depression is not cured through meds. Let me repeat: depression is not cured through meds. This is a common misconception, so I understand, but depression is mostly cured through therapy and support from friends and family. While meds do help (and I do believe that I am generally happier when on them), they're not the reason.

Usually when I'm on the meds, I don't snap. Like, at all. I snap at people in my everyday life and it's practically my normal tone of voice...??? I've noticed that I use a much better tone talking to my peers, even if my generation is super stupid and I have almost no respect for them whatsoever.

What are the everyday struggles of depression while off meds?

The best word that I have found (and used in a song by Social Repose) is "apathy" and "apathetic". It's just a constant sense of not caring. Not wanting to go places. Not wanting to care about life. Not caring about other people and their feelings. It's just not caring on steroids, for a lack of a better phrase. It's not sadness. It's just not caring.

How does clinical depression affect the perspective of a person (thoughts/behaviours/overall living etc.)?

Okay so are you asking from a suicidal depression point of view, or....

There are several types of depression that I recommend you look up. When you find what you're looking for, I recommend you fix your questions for that. I have suicidal depression, not generalized (like what I think you're asking) so I can't answer this question very well. There's also atypical depression (where you experience symptoms off from what generalized depression symptoms are) and bipolar depression.

I do applaud you on trying to take on this challenge though! I'm wholly interested and, if you post on here, you should tag me :)

Hope this helped! ~~ zami
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Mon Nov 26, 2018 3:14 pm
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AvantCoffee says...



@lemonboi @zaminami Thank you both so much for commenting!

To be specific my character has dysthymia, however I wanted to learn about the varying experiences people have with all different types of depression so I tried to keep that question open (and probably didn't do the best job). Thanks for being supportive of my story, zami! My plan is to post it on YWS soon, depending on the amount of spare time I have.
Last edited by AvantCoffee on Sat Apr 20, 2019 4:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Mon Nov 26, 2018 3:32 pm
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lemonboi says...



Hey, if you're curious, I could give you some insight on what it's like with dysphoria? I'm a trans demiboy. Idk it's up to you and glad I could help :D
Lemon
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~oh excuse me.. just way to gay to function ;P~
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Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:10 pm
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AvantCoffee says...



Thanks for the offer, lemon! I accidentally wrote dysphoria when instead of dysthymia in my last comment, but I'd love to know more about dysphoria regardless if you want to share more. ^^

There are actually two characters with depression – the protagonist's father, whose type of depression I haven't yet discerned, and the other is the protagonist, who has dysthymia (or chronic depression)
Last edited by AvantCoffee on Fri Apr 19, 2019 1:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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zaminami says...



Hmmm what are the symptoms? I know a lot of types so I could help @CoffeeCat.
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Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:40 pm
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AvantCoffee says...



Yeah, thanks, @zaminami. :) There's a fair bit I don't know when it comes to types. If you happen to know how probable it would be for father and son to have different types of depression I would appreciate it
Last edited by AvantCoffee on Fri Apr 19, 2019 1:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:31 pm
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StellaThomas says...



Hi,

So, depression is mainly characterised by the three following things:

- pervasive, persistent low mood
- lack of enjoyment in things
- lack of energy

This is usually accompanied by "biological symptoms" like poor sleep and loss of appetite, and feelings of guilt, hopelessness. Some people, but not all, might have accompanying suicidal ideation.

Chronic dysthymia is a different disorder and much more difficult to treat.

Most depression is self-limiting. That is, it passes usually in about a year. Usually it's triggered by life events, a break up, a death, loss of a job. But not always. Sometimes it's just triggered by chemical imbalances with no other satisfactory explanation.

How you write medication into your novel is up to you. Most medications for depression are SSRIs or SNRIs. The side effects of these are some mild weight gain, nausea and diarrhoea, occasionally headaches, loss of libido, and within the first two or three weeks of treatment an increase in suicidal thoughts.

Contrary to popular belief anti-depressants do not dull your feelings. The majority are not sedating (excepting a few, like Mirtazepine). They often get conflated with anti-psychotics on this count. And they do have a role in recovery. Of course we recommend combined treatment with talking therapies for best resulta. But that is not saying that medication don't work.

Not everyone is compliant with their medication. However keep in mind that some anti depressants, like Venlafaxine and Paroxetine, can have quite severe withdrawal symptoms.

Increasingly the most commonly prescribed SSRI is Sertraline, which treats anxiety pretty well as well.

Regarding the father and possible dx of bipolar affective disorder, consider BPAD II, although an older classification, which means no manic episodes but rather cycles of depression and hypomania. Of course you can have a diagnosis of BPAD with only depressive symptoms but it's more difficult to do. The main difference of course with BPAD is that he will probably be on a mood stabiliser. Thankfully men have more options with this than women, he may be on Lithium, sodium valproate or lamotrigine. Lithium is the most common and works pretty well.

Regarding how you want his illness to affect his life, you need to consider how active his disease is at the time. Keep in mind that depression at its most extreme is very debilitating and would stop him from playing a part in his own story. So it might be better to consider him on the more controlled end of things.
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Tue Nov 27, 2018 1:46 am
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AvantCoffee says...



@StellaThomas Thanks a ton! Your clarifications regarding medications help me out a lot, and your suggestions for the father character are worth looking into~
If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
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