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For those comfortable and who experienced it, I'd love some advice regarding writing a (clinically) depressed character

Tendo64

Siamese Weeb
I've been writing a story for some time now, and in the middle, the deuteragonist is diagnosed with clinical depression (specifically, major depressive disorder). i've done a fair amount of research regarding how to portray the symptoms (though i'm more than open to receiving extra advice on that), but my main concern is the following, as i struggled to find concrete details on it:

how does diagnosis work? do you walk into a doctor's office and get diagnosed that day after some questions, and are immediately prescribed antidepressants? are you mailed something, do you have to go somewhere else to get that prescription? and what about therapy, how do those sessions usually work?

i'm not sure if these are too personal or not, but even though i don't plan to publish this story as it's a private project, i really want it to be accurate. so does anyone here who was diagnosed with depression or something similar and feels comfortable opening up, have any advice for me on how to handle that?
 

quoting_mungo

Well-Known Member
I can’t speak for what might be done these days, or how it might be different in other places. For me it involved a lot of self-evaluation forms (the kind that asks you to agree/strongly agree/disagree/strongly disagree and similar), plus describing my symptoms to doctors. I hate those forms so much after how many I filled out.

I honestly don’t remember more specific details than that. There was also some miscommunication between health care providers going on in my case, which made antidepressant prescription a bit... weird. Impression I got was that it’s not entirely unusual for your GP to prescribe antidepressants while you wait for an opening with a MH clinic, if they have a longish wait list, but I can’t be sure.

What therapy sessions look like will depend on a lot of factors, including what form of therapy your character is receiving. Are they getting CBT? DBT? Something else?

Main other suggestion I would make is to consider what depression is for your character. I know for me, it’s rarely at all about “feeling sad.” It actually irritates me when people assume it’s about sadness. For other people, sad is a major component.

Also, if you’re putting your character on antidepressants, look into the side effects. I’m not saying everyone will suffer noticeable side effects, but most people do experience some side effect. Some of them can be fairly minor, others can be outright life-threatening.

ETA: This is less about getting treatment and more about personal experience with depression and anxiety in general, but remembered I have these Tumblr posts I made for World Mental Health Day, that might or might not be of use to you. There's also more depression crap on my Tumblr but I feel weird linking those tags because they're such a messy mix of things. They're not hard to find if you want to find them.
 
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Kumali

Lupine-American
A bit of Googling will often provide you with enough information to get started without needing to ask people to share their personal histories (not a criticism; I don't mind, up to a point, but just thought I'd mention that). Here are a few articles I found with a quick Google search for "depression treatment what to expect," and no doubt there are many more:




In my case, I was in such rough shape (suicidal ideation, withdrawal, catatonia, uncontrollable bouts of crying) that my friends became concerned enough to make an appointment for me with a psychiatrist of their acquaintance; he and I talked for an hour or so and he prescribed an antidepressant right then and there based on my symptoms. After that I started seeing both a therapist and psychiatrist regularly. Got the official diagnosis of both clinical depression and panic/anxiety disorder somewhere along the line, have been in therapy and on various meds ever since (six or seven years now), and the difference is unbelievable.
 

Kumali

Lupine-American
BTW, to answer one of your other questions, psych drug prescriptions work the same way as any other prescription: a doctor writes the prescription and you get it filled at a pharmacy.
 

Tendo64

Siamese Weeb
Thanks for the help you two, this was pretty insightful and I think I've a better understanding on how to write that scene.
A bit of Googling will often provide you with enough information to get started without needing to ask people to share their personal histories
Sorry about that, I did Google it a bit but wasn't entirely sure how to word it to get the exact details I needed (and also I wanted to be extra careful as I take accurate representation of stuff like this very seriously). But what you linked helped, so thanks.
 

Balskarr

The Lurking Hooman
BTW, to answer one of your other questions, psych drug prescriptions work the same way as any other prescription: a doctor writes the prescription and you get it filled at a pharmacy.
Can confirm. I've been through the process myself.
 

MaelstromEyre

Slippery When Wet
It also depends on your doctor - some seem to want to give out antidepressants like candy, others may suggest visiting a mental health professional first.

If your GP does write a prescription, it's something you'd take to a pharmacy to get filled just like anything else. They'll probably want you to come back within a certain amount of time for follow up.
 

dragon-in-sight

mane diva
Such a character would have little to no emotional colour feeling numb inside and disconnected to his environment. He may be would try to smile and act out normally to the outside, while beeing lost in doom and gloom. He may be plagued by dark thoughts about how everything in life is without meaning, while everything seems cold, grey and blunt to him. He also may experience a lack of involvement with things he liked before. Or getting extremly cynical about the world. He wouldn't be inevitably suicidal. In fact he would be to tired to even concidder something like that everything is just without sense, even death.

That's basicly how a depression feels.
 

Kumali

Lupine-American
It also depends on your doctor - some seem to want to give out antidepressants like candy, others may suggest visiting a mental health professional first.

True - in my experience (and what I meant, but wasn't very clear about) it's generally a psychiatrist from whom one usually gets psych drug prescriptions, rather than just from a GP.

To clarify for the OP: A psychiatrist, by definition, is an M.D., at least here in the US, and can therefore prescribe drugs. (So can a licensed Nurse Practitioner in my state.) A psychotherapist who isn't an M.D. can't. That's why I see both a therapist and a psychiatrist: I have the deep talks and do the deep work with my therapist, and the psychiatrist is mainly for med management (though she talks with me too and monitors how I'm doing).
 

Kuroserama

Just a fox.
Such a character would have little to no emotional colour feeling numb inside and disconnected to his environment. He may be would try to smile and act out normally to the outside, while beeing lost in doom and gloom. He may be plagued by dark thoughts about how everything in life is without meaning, while everything seems cold, grey and blunt to him. He also may experience a lack of involvement with things he liked before. Or getting extremly cynical about the world. He wouldn't be inevitably suicidal. In fact he would be to tired to even concidder something like that everything is just without sense, even death.

That's basicly how a depression feels.
This is pretty spot on.

The character may fluctuate between a melancholy to rage at feeling depressed. Depression is such a weird beast: even though one may know they should be happy, they just exist in this grey absence of everything that seemingly matters. Usually there is a feeling of not wanting to exist. Not necessarily being suicidal, but just.. wanting to not be here.

And spiraling emotions tend to occur. The day may start out as just a bit of a bummer. Then something is said to the character that the character takes as a slight to them and the day gets worse. The potential worthlessness they already felt is heightened. Maybe they're not able to put on the 'happy face' now and someone makes direct comments to the character that beats them down further. The sadness turns to anger -- anger at not being able to be happy, anger at the world around, anger at those who don't understand, and anger at those who are happy.

There's a range of emotions and everyone experiences it differently.
 

Kumali

Lupine-American
Such a character would have little to no emotional colour feeling numb inside and disconnected to his environment. He may be would try to smile and act out normally to the outside, while beeing lost in doom and gloom. He may be plagued by dark thoughts about how everything in life is without meaning, while everything seems cold, grey and blunt to him. He also may experience a lack of involvement with things he liked before. Or getting extremly cynical about the world. He wouldn't be inevitably suicidal. In fact he would be to tired to even concidder something like that everything is just without sense, even death.

That's basicly how a depression feels.

This is pretty spot on.

The character may fluctuate between a melancholy to rage at feeling depressed. Depression is such a weird beast: even though one may know they should be happy, they just exist in this grey absence of everything that seemingly matters. Usually there is a feeling of not wanting to exist. Not necessarily being suicidal, but just.. wanting to not be here.

And spiraling emotions tend to occur. The day may start out as just a bit of a bummer. Then something is said to the character that the character takes as a slight to them and the day gets worse. The potential worthlessness they already felt is heightened. Maybe they're not able to put on the 'happy face' now and someone makes direct comments to the character that beats them down further. The sadness turns to anger -- anger at not being able to be happy, anger at the world around, anger at those who don't understand, and anger at those who are happy.

There's a range of emotions and everyone experiences it differently.

These are both REALLY good descriptions.
 

MaelstromEyre

Slippery When Wet
Keep in mind that a lot of the commercials for antidepressants show "depression" as someone moping around the house, never getting out of bed, always looking like they're in anguish and never doing anything.
It can be other things, though. It could be a loss of interest in things you've always enjoyed. It could be irritability. You may still go through day to day tasks, going to work and preparing meals and doing your housework, you may still be friendly and helpful to other people as a masking method, or to try to distract yourself from your own feelings.
 

Tytysi

Legendary Shaman
I'm sure everyone's experience is different, but here's how mine went...

As far as diagnosis, I went to a therapist and described issues I had been having (more on that next). She diagnosed me during that session and referred me to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist asked me, "If you had a pill that could do anything, what would it do?" I took the question very literally and said, "Live forever." Y'know, cuz I have an intense fear of death (despite constantly having a mild urge to not exist). That was embarrassing... Anyways, she reframed the question and I basically said that I just wanted the energy to live my life again. So she wrote me a prescription.

Now, as far as my personal symptoms... Whenever I am unmedicated for whatever reason, I am VERY irritable. The smallest issue can ignite me. I also sleep at least 12 hours a day, sometimes as much as 14-16. I'm unmotivated to do anything, including hobbies that I love. I generally feel numb and tired. During the worst depressive episode I've had, I laid in bed for days on end, and only got up to use the restroom. A friend brought me ice cream and brownies from the lunch hall just to get me to eat something, but I still managed to lose a bit of weight, and I didn't have the physical energy to get up and move due to lack of nutrition. I flunked all my classes that semester. Whenever I'm medicated, I'm much more active and sleep less, but I still have my funks in which nothing makes me happy and I can't find the will to do much other than lay on the couch, napping in between snacking.
 

Parabellum3

I'm not a furry if I have feathers.
My depression is sort of a weird one, half of it consists of excessive anger and jealousy. I usually channel my negative energy to other people whenever I have an episode. Thankfully it doesn't happen that often thanks to meds. My conditions are interpreted through my OC by his powers and actions. For your story you could take a more creative approach when designing your character if you wish.
 

Rayd

philosophy & psychology nerd
i feel like it would be kind of difficult to write a depressed character "incorrectly" since as a few others have said or implied, everybody's experience with it is going to be different, whether by a little or by a lot. i would compare it to fingerprints, no two cases of depression are the exact same. everybody will feel different, and everybody will react or respond to it in different ways and with different extremely complex emotions that, along with depression as a whole, are incredibly unique to the individual. there's just too much infinite variety in what "depression" can really be for it to be classified in 1 or even a handful of ways.

you would probably have more luck being more specific about what kind of depressed individual you're trying to recreate. are their emotions/actions intense and erratic? or subtle and repressed? do they wear a mask? or do they wear their true feelings on their sleeve? the more specifics answered, the better character created.
 

Ghostbird

Creep of the week
I'll share one of my OCs
Martin Saint Marten, 54 year old twice divorced combat veteran with PTSD. Generally surly and unpleasant. Pushes people away for fear of them finding out what a sad, miserable SOB he is. Runs a convenience store which is always spotless and metculosly organized. This is all his life is, he lives alone in a studio apartment with a houseplant as company. He never acts sad or speaks about feelings around others.
 
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