The shocking and saddening suicide of beloved actor Robin Williams reminds us all about the dangers of the silent disease from which he suffered. Behind his manic comedic style, Williams’ struggle with depression led him repeatedly through bouts of drug and alcohol addiction.

While most of us can feel sad or lonely for short periods, clinical depression can be a debilitating and chronic illness, accompanied by physical symptoms, that is unlikely to improve without treatment. Depression can have a devastating effect on your relationship with your partner, family, and friends. Symptoms can include: difficulty concentrating or remembering, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, or “emptiness,” insomnia, irritability, loss of interest in activities once pleasurable, overeating or not eating enough, persistent aches and pains, persistent sad or anxious feelings, and thoughts of suicide or even suicide attempts.

Due to the stigma associated with mental illness, many people who suffer from this disease feel the need to hide their pain. Because of the fear of being found out and labeled, many do not seek help. This is especially the case with men, and may be the reason why men accounted for nearly 80% of all suicides in 2011, according to the Center for Disease Control.

In addition to the risk of suicide, leaving this illness untreated can lead to drug or alcohol addiction, interfere with important relationships, and cause individuals problems at work. People with this disease are also more likely to develop other health problems, such as heart disease.

Without treatment, the prognosis is poor and mental and physical health will likely deteriorate. Treating this illness means we first have to talk about our pain. If you or a loved one show signs, seek help from a therapist. Contact this Los Angeles Depression Therapist for more information. Treatment generally includes multiple elements, including prescription drugs and regular psychotherapy.

Recognizing the signs of this disease in yourself or a loved one is an important step towards healing. While the signs can be subtle, you can note whether the person is behaving in new and different ways over a period of time. For example, social withdrawal is a common sign. If someone you know hasn’t been showing up anymore at social or family gatherings, this could be a cause for concern. Other indicators include ruminating on negative events or worries, over-indulging in alcohol (“self-medicating”), losing interest in taking care of one’s health or fitness, and binging on sugary treats.

Luckily, even when one feels hopeless, help is out there. Contact my Los Angeles Depression Therapy office for an appointment, and begin the journey towards health and happiness.