‘Taking the life out of life’

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The condition can affect everyone, without regard for age or social, ethnic, or economic background. It’s a disease of the brain, not the body, and it reaches about one in ten adults in the U.S. every year.

“Depression is not just having a bad day,” says Marie Hobart, M.D., “It is really a serious medical illness that can be very debilitating and even life threatening. It really takes the life out of life.”

With that apt description, Dr. Hobart, a psychiatrist who is the chief medical officer of Community Healthlink, a part of UMass Memorial Health Care that provides psychiatric, mental health, and substance abuse services for families and individual patients in Central Massachusetts, begins an introduction to the mental illness of depression in the February edition of Physician Focus with the Massachusetts Medical Society. Hosting this edition is John Fromson, M.D., a fellow psychiatrist and associate director of graduate medical education at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Among the topics of conversation are the factors contributing to the condition, how it affects the behavior and everyday life of the patient, the physical problems linked to the illness, and therapies used to treat patients with depression.

“The condition impacts one’s ability to socialize, to work, and to carry out the normal activities of life; it can be remarkably impairing,” says Dr. Hobart, who is also a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

The discussion is not all negative, however. Indeed, reflecting the idea that ‘what’s good for the body is good for the mind,’ Dr. Hobart urges people to take preventive steps for their mental health in part by focusing on their physical health and has a hopeful message for those with depression.

“It’s important to be proactive about your mental health,” she advises, and that includes paying attention to physical health. “Having a healthy body helps to decrease your anxiety level and your risk of depression. A healthy diet and especially physical activity can have huge benefits.”

She also emphasizes that depression need not be a lifelong condition. “Seeking treatment is very important,” she cautions, and “the good news is that depression is very treatable.”

To those unfamiliar with depression and the impact it can have on patients and their families, I invite you to join us this month for a conversation that helps to erase some of the mystery surrounding an often-stigmatizing medical condition.

Click Here to watch February's edition of Physician Focus: Understanding Depression.

Photo: John Fromson, M.D., Marie Hobart, M.D. on February's Physician Focus.