My mother is suicidal: Will I be too?

 

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Dear Stanton:

I am 27 years old. My mother has manic depression and is also bipolar. Over the past fifteen years I have had to deal with many attempts of suicide with my mother. What are the chances that I will get these diseases?

During the past months I have noticed that I am beginning to remember all of these times and have become really depressed. I have never been a depressed person. November of last year was my first time to deal with anxiety because of another suicide attempt by my mother. At that time my doctor put me on Buspar. It helped for a while but my anxiety changed to depression after several months. After calling my family doctor about my depression he prescribed me prozac. Are there any long term side effects that I should be concerned about? Is depression a chemical imbalance? Will I have to continue to take prozac in order to be happy?

I can say that since I have been taking the prescription my mood and over all personality has improved.

Jill


Jill:

You ask many questions about the nature of depression, the side effects of antidepressants, and the transmission of depressive/bipolar conditions from mother to daughter. I recommend you examine several of my articles and answers to similar questions.

I don’t view problems like yours as genetic in nature, or as chemical imbalances. For example, bipolar illness is the only case I know of in which an illness is characterized by the shift between hyper and hypo states (for example, people are rarely, if ever, characterized by hyper and hypotension, or hyper and hypoglycemia). But people are often characterized by anxiety and depression (in fact, it is almost typical of depressed people to be anxious). Why is this? Because people with these conditions are being overcome by emotional demands, demands for which they find their psychological resources are inadequate.

You are facing the stress of your mother’s suicide attempts — attempts which continue. This would upset and possibly overwhelm any human being. (If, by the way, they could adequately treat depression, as is often claimed, then why can’t they arrest your mother’s condition)? That no one has reflected on the impact of your mother’s condition — and the demands it places on you — is to me tantamount to malpractice. You might ask the physicians you consult, “If your spouse or child attempted suicide, how would you react emotionally?” That you had previously not evidenced depression is to me strong evidence that you are suffering from an understandable situational reaction to a depressing event.

Stanton

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