The Other Side of the Couch 4: Depression, Untreated, Can Be Fatal

Sad Teenage Girl

About four weeks ago I started taking a medication called a beta blocker.  This medication is taken by many people, and many do well on it, but others do not.  One of the side effects of this medication is depression.  I turned out to be one of those people for whom even a tiny dose of this medication leads to a rapid descent into depression.  I wasn’t sleeping well. I was waking up exhausted;. My appetite was off, and I began to feel hopeless and unmotivated to handle my daily obligations.  I began to cry frequently, and I could not stop thinking about Robin Williams and his sad death.

I am a licensed professional counselor with years of experience in the field and I recognized pretty quickly that these were not normal experiences for me.  I know the difference between being blue and sliding into a major depressive episode and I was on my way to the latter.  I called my doctor, stopped the medication, and almost immediately (within two days) was back to my regular self.  I was still sad about Robin Williams’ tragic death, but I was also able to stop obsessing about it.

Robin’s suicide may have been influenced by a medication that he was prescribed for his early Parkinson’s diagnosis.  Many medications can have these kinds of side effects.  Sometimes depression just happens without any particular cause.  Sometimes prolonged stress can tip one over into a major depressive episode.

Knowing the signs that point to depression can save lives.  If you notice sleep and appetite changes, thinking over and over again about something without being able to let go of it, negative thoughts about yourself, including feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, fatigue, lack of motivation (that “whatever” feeling), and especially thoughts about death (They would be better off without me; I’ll show them; They’ll miss me when I’m gone) or any kind of thought about planning what you would do to die, SEEK IMMEDIATE HELP.  Depression can be treated, but death cannot.

Depression can manifest in children and adolescents somewhat differently. Often restlessness and irritability are components of this illness in minors.

A great resource for help with depression and other mental illnesses is NAMI.  You can find great information at  It’s worth reaching out for help, because help is available.  Depression is an illness, just like any other.  Treat it like an illness, and get help.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”

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