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Investigating Depression in Hamlet

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Maddison Sabourin

on 27 November 2014

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Transcript of Investigating Depression in Hamlet

Investigating Depression in the Character of Hamlet
Signs & Symptoms
What Causes Depression?
Depression-related Disorders cont'd
Depression-related Disorders
Depression - What is it?
Often time’s people assume depression is controllable, that people choose and can change it - that is a common misconception. Depression is much more than simple unhappiness. Depression is a real, medical condition with many emotional, physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms.
“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”

- Laurell K. Hamilton, Mistral's Kiss
Hamlet's Stress Overall
We can also conclude Hamlet has a multitude of stressors; Gertrude, Ophelia, Polonius, Claudius, England, revenge, guilt etc. The stressors create his symptoms of having:
difficulty concentrating
feeling helpless
and a lack of responsibility - his procrastination of revenge
Hamlet's Bipolar Disorder Overall
Lastly, we can conclude Hamlet's modern-day diagnosis of Bipolar 1 Disorder through his continuous and repetitive manic and depressive episodes.
Who is Affected by Depression?
Types of Depression
Depression isn’t a simple diagnosis; there are many types of depression and many other disorders that interconnect with and resemble depression.

1. Seasonal Affective Disorder: This type of depression is affected by the weather and time of the year.
2. Postpartum Depression: This occurs in women, following the birth of a child. (Statistic states that about 13% of women will suffer postpartum depression)
3. Depression with Psychosis: A more severe case of depression when a person loses touch with reality. (They might hear voices or have hallucinations and delusions).
4. Dysthymia: This depression consists of chronic low mood and moderate symptoms of depression.

Hamlet's Depression Overall
Aside from being in a sad, despairing mood, which is the main symptom of depression, there are many other signs and symptoms that affect individuals who suffer depression.

1. The main symptom, being in a sad and despairing mood can last anywhere from a whole day to longer than two weeks. This symptom impairs the individual’s performance in work, school and social relationships.
2. Changes in appetite and weight
3. Sleep problems
4. Loss of interest in the individual’s daily rituals
5. Withdrawal from family members as well as friends
6. The feeling of being useless, having low self-esteem and being excessively pessimistic
7. Agitation / irritability
8. Feeling slowed down / fatigue
9. Trouble concentrating, remembering and making decisions
10. Heightened emotions ex: crying easily or feeling like crying but not being able to
11. Thoughts of suicide (which should be taken seriously always)
12. A loss of touch with reality in extreme cases.

o Genetic factors: family history of depression, psychological or emotional disorders increase one’s vulnerability to be affected by depression.
o Depression can also be a result of another illness ex: hyperthyroidism, as well it can be a reaction to another illness ex: cancer
o It can also be caused by and illness itself that makes changes in an individual’s neurological pathways/system ex: stroke

Depression in women can, in SOME cases, be linked to hormonal factors ex: menstrual cycle, postpartum depression, miscarriage, and pre/post-menopause. However that is not to say that every case of depression in women is a result of a hormonal factor.
Typically men suffering from depression have a higher chance of feeling highly irritable, angry and discouraged which can make the symptoms harder to recognize. The rate of completed suicide in men is four times that in women, although women have a higher rate of attempted suicide.
Older Adults
It is often mistaken that it is normal for older adults to feel depressed, although that is untrue, depression in older age adults can spring from the loss of a loved one or feeling a hopelessness in regard to the fact of aging. Both these triggers can result in symptoms like losing interest in pleasurable activities and the common symptom of despair.
It is commonly thought that children can’t suffer depression. Why? Well, because they’re children, they have nothing to worry about, and they don’t have a clear enough concept of the things around them – research and studies have proven this theory to be false as well. Although it is hard to differentiate depression from psychological stages of development in a child, a child will show symptoms of: - Pretending to be sick often
- Not wanting to go to school
- Cling to a parent and/or worry that parent might die
- Get into trouble at school
- Be negative, grouchy, and feel misunderstood

It is commonly thought that the majority of people who suffer depression are women, according to statistics that is untrue. In fact, only 10 to 25 percent of women suffer from depression, and there is almost twice as many men (20 to 50 percent). However, between different gender and age, depression has it’s variations.

There are various methods of treatment that suit the different needs for each individual. The treatments can be used separately or in combination.
1. Medication
2. Different therapeutic methods – psychoeducation, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy.
Because clinical depression lasts a person’s lifetime, it needs to be managed in a way that fits the individual’s needs, not the common need. This means that just because two people have the same or similar symptoms, doesn’t mean they would each benefit from the same type of treatment.

Treatment for Depression
What is Stress?
Stress is a response to any environmental factors, (commonly referred to as ‘stressors’). Ex: financial problems, relationship breakup, difficulties in work or school, injury/illness, death etc.
What is the cause?
Stress is brought on when an individual feels that one of these environmental factors is a threat to their well-being. This feeling of stress creates the “fight-or-flight” response in our brains. Ex: high pressure situations can create a feeling incapability to cope with or that one has limited resources to cope with the situation. Prolonged stress can increase an individual’s risk to psychological problems like depression and anxiety.

Who suffers from stress?
- People who have limited social support
- People with multiple stressors
- People who have difficulty regulating their emotions, hormones or tolerating uncertainty
- People with a lack of self-confidence

Symptoms and Coping
- Cognitive: difficulty concentrating/thinking, memory problems, negativity or lack of self-confidence
- Emotional: moodiness, low morale, irritability, feeling hopeless or helpless, anxious/nervous, feeling depressed
- Behavioral: changes in sleeping patterns, social withdrawal, nervous habits, neglecting family or responsibilities, increased substance use/abuse.

- Prioritizing
- Seeking support
- Attending a support group or seeking professional therapy

Bipolar Disorder
What is Bipolar Disorder?
A mood disorder that is categorized under clinical depression which is characterized by an individual switching between depression and overexcitement – also referred to as ‘manic phases’.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder?
Although bipolar disorder has been and is continuing to be studied, scientists have still yet to find a main cause of bipolar disorder. However they have stated that genetics, brain structure and functioning play as factors in the risk and potential causes of bipolar disorder.
Signs & Symptoms
- Experience intent emotional states “mood episodes.” (There is usually a drastic change in moods).
- Manic episode: intense joyfulness or overexcited state (Lasts up to 7 days)
- Depressive episode: extremely sad or hopeless
- Mixed state: includes both symptoms of a manic episode and a depressive episode.
- Extreme changes in energy levels, activity or sleep will go along with these mood changes.

Different Types of Bipolar Disorder
1. Bipolar 1 Disorder: the classic form of the condition, and the most severe. Characterized by at least one manic episode (lasts up to 7 days) and at least one depressive episode.
2. Bipolar 2 Disorder: Recurring episodes of major depression and hypomania (last up to 4 days).
3. Cyclothymia (hypomania and mild depression): The milder form of bipolar disorder; consists of mood swings but the highs and lows are not severe enough to qualify as mania or major depression. To be diagnosed you must have experienced numerous periods of hypomania and mild depression over a two year time span.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition and can most certainly not be cured overnight. In fact, more importantly, treatment methods vary quite a bit between each case of the disorder. Medication alone isn’t enough to help an individual cope with their symptoms, and antidepressants can actually worsen the condition. It is important for those suffering with bipolar disorder to seek a professional for therapy and to be educated on their disorder to be able to live an emotionally balanced life.
Depression vs Bipolar Disorder: What's the difference?
Although the symptoms seem quite similar between the two, there is a distinction between them.
Depression vs Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder
o Pervasive sadness
o Extreme fatigue or loss of energy
o Inability to make a decision
o Lack of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable
o Appetite changes
o Sleep problems
o Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
o Thoughts of death or suicide

o Irritability
o Anger
o Excessively high energy; rapid speech and thoughts
o Decreased need for sleep
o Overinflated sense of self-importance
o Disturbed judgment
o Increased recklessness (usually involving money, drugs, alcohol, or sex)

o They are both lifelong diseases
o They can be treated and controlled
o Affects personal and social relationships
o Lack of interest and focus
o Difficulty concentrating
Hamlet's Symptoms
Symptoms 1, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 12, relate back to Hamlet. Symptom 1 of feeling in despair during short to long periods of time as well as symptom 7, an increase in agitation, is when we would see what many critics believe is Hamlet's antic disposition. This disposition would be a reflection of the sadness he is feeling as well, his anger toward other characters have influenced his depression - Claudius, Polonius, Gertrude, Ophelia. Symptom 5 would be a result of the information Hamlet's has begun to understand about his father's death. Because the death of King Hamlet is the cause of Hamlet's depression, his anger would cause him to want revenge which plays into symptom 9 of indecisiveness and to withdrawal from his mother because to him she is partly to blame for the death of King Hamlet and deep down Hamlet's depression. This would also be seen as a symptom related to Ophelia ending the relationship with Hamlet. Lastly, symptom 11 is reflective of Hamlet's famous soliloquy "To be or not to be" where he contemplates the benefits to death verses life. It as well a reflection of his depression leading to the finality of the play - his suicide.
In Hamlet's case, his depression would have sprung from the death/murder of his father and would have also been affected by his break up with Ophelia.
Hamlet's Stress
Hamlet's environmental pressure "stressor" would be the death of his father and the resentment toward Claudius for the act. His stress could also be stemming from the loss of Ophelia as well as his concern for his mother (Gertrude). Later in the play, we would state that Hamlet's stress also comes from being Claudius' target and his being sent to England.
#3. Depression with psychosis is one of the types of depression we can categorize Hamlet to be. With hallucinations of his father.
To be or not to be...
To be, or not to be--that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune Or to take arms against a sea of troubles And by opposing end them.
(Shakespeare 3.1.57-61).
This is the section of Hamlet's soliloquy that he is contemplating the perks of death stating it would be free of the misery he feels while he's alive.
Hamlet's Bipolar Disorder
Due to his manic and depressive stages, as well as having symptoms like:
Manic phases: his sudden bursts of determination to kill Claudius that are persistent throughout the play
Depressive phases: his toying around with suicide
Hamlet would be classified under the category of having Bipolar 1 Disorder.
Depressive Phases
It is most definite that in Hamlet's cases we see more depressive episodes than we do manic ones.
Hamlet's Manic Phases
In the play, we would see Hamlet's manic phases through his over-excitement and distractedness. However this is not at positive over-excitement.
The beginning
We see Hamlet's depressive episodes when he dresses himself in black robes in the beginning of the play during the mourning of his father. This is an evident indication that Hamlet has begun to struggle with depression.
"Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,"
(Shakespeare 1.2.69)
This quote said by Hamlet's mother, plays a strong role in the development of Hamlet's depression. He lacks support from the one person whom should be supporting him most. As well, in his first soliloquy we see him begin to contemplate the idea of death versus life.
'' O God! God! / How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, / Seem to me all the uses of this world!''
(Shakespeare 1.2.134-6).
The Ending...
Lastly, Hamlet's thoughts of suicide that led to the result of him committing the act, would be the biggest and most evident of a depressive phases. In his fourth soliloquy, his thoughts of suicide are vocalized drastically in the famous 'To be or not to be' speech:
''To die, to sleep, / No more; and by a sleep to say we end / The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks / That flesh is hair to.''
(Shakespeare, 3.1.67-9). This is the result of Hamlet not having had support, any treatment options and simply not knowing how to cope with his disorder. To him, death was the only way out and so he acted on it,
''The rest is silence.''
(Shakespeare 5.2.377)
The Build Up
Hamlet's depressive stages after this first act begin to build up quite significantly. He begins contemplating the idea of death even more so and the benefits it has compared to life. We see this in his references to the lack of faith in man kind:
"Ay, sir. To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand."
(Shakespeare 2.2.192-193), and as well his own life:
"You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will more willingly part withal - except my life, except my life, except my life,"
(Shakespeare 2.2.229-231), when speaking to Polonius.
Poor Recollection
More into the play, Hamlet’s break up with Ophelia becomes another one of his ‘stressors’. Hamlet's encounter with Ophelia becomes reflective of having a poor memory - a symptom of mania, that leads him into a rather impulsive period where he doesn’t think clearly. We see this reflection in Act 3, Scene 1 when Hamlet becomes nearly physically abusive with Ophelia in her attempt to return his gifts,
“No, not I. / I never gave you aught,”
(Shakespeare, 3.1.106-107). Hamlet believes Ophelia is the crazy one because of his lack of memory and poor recollection he has of giving her these gifts, during the time Hamlet gave Ophelia the gifts he was in a period of mania as well as in this encounter he is going through a manic episode.
Lastly, Hamlet's manic episodes amplify to him not thinking rationally, let alone at all for that matter. We see Hamlet's first manic episode in 1.4.45-49, when he impulsively leaves with the ghost. He has an overcoming sense of grandiosity (feeling like nothing can do him wrong) and poor judgement.
"Why, what should be the fear?/ I do not set my life at a pin's fee;/ And for my soul, what can it do to that, Being a thing immortal itself? /It waves me forth again; - I'll follow it."
This leads into Hamlet to then act impulsively, killing Polonius while in his mother's chamber thinking it was Claudius.
"How now! A rat? / Dead for a ducat, dead!"
(Shakespeare 3.4.27-28).
Over Talkative
Hamlet is very talkative in the scene with his mother in her chamber. This, as a result of recent events (trying to seek revenge), blows into another one of his manic episodes. He keeps going on, to his mother, about her actions and they are such a disgrace. At this time Hamlet is very riled up which causes him to be very insulting toward his mother, until she realizes Hamlet's point of view.
Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell! / I took thee for thy better. Take thy fortune. / Thou find’st to be too busy in some danger…

What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongue / In noise so rude against me?
(Shakespeare, 3.4.38-40/46-7).
''Love! His affections do not that way tend, / Nor what he spake, though it lacked for a little, / Was not like madness. There's something in his soul,''
(Shakespeare, 3.1.174-76).
''But yet do I believe / The origin and commencement of his grief / Sprung from neglected love.''
(Shakespeare 3.1.189-191).
We conclude Hamlet's depression through the symptoms he suffers:
lost sense of reality
We can therefore state that throughout Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, there is evidence of depression and it's related disorders in response to the main character - Hamlet. Hamlet's depression was more or less crucial to Shakespeare's play to allow the events to have happened the way they did. Had Hamlet not have any signs of depression, stress of bipolar disorder, his actions would have been quickly thought out and revenge quickly persecuted. Without it, the play would not have had enough tragedy to create five intriguing acts.
''Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.''
(Shakespeare, 3.1.201).
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