Monday, April 11, 2011

DAYS & Depression: What Can We Learn From Sami's Problem?

Something troubling is going on with Rafe Hernandez in Salem these days.  The audience knows that Stefano and E.J. conspired to kidnap the real Rafe and replace him with an impulsive and aggressive doppelgänger.  All Sami knows is that her husband has become a stranger.

Although the premise of the story is fairly preposterous (I always wondered how anatomically detailed Stefano gets when he goes about replacing Rafe or Roman Brady with a fake), its psychological consequences are grounded and quite profound.  How many people have looked at their significant other and thought, "I don't even know this person anymore"? How many people have become so confused and frustrated with their partner's behavior that they hoped there was a medical problem so they could have a satisfactory rationale as to why this stranger is acting this way? In my experience this can sometimes happen within long term relationships. In this respect, Sami's emotional dilemma is very realistic.

In the real world, Rafe's drastic personality changes would be consistent with symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder.  When people think of "depression" they typically tend to consider saddened, tearful, and lethargic symptoms.  However, in men it can appear quite differently.  The red flags for signs of depression in men include:

-Drastic change in attitude from before. Rafe's entire demeanor has changed.  He has emotionally withdrawn, and frequently presents distant and distracted.
-Increased irritability - Rafe is constantly irritable and on edge with everyone.  He verbally attacked poor Allie when she rejected his cookies. Sami, Caroline, and Gabi have felt like they have had to tread lightly around him
-Violent or Abusive behavior:  Rafe is focused on "beating others" and fighting "bad guys."  He is teaching Johnny to use violence to solve problems, and has a focused "me against the world" stance. He is verbally abusive toward Sami, and last week he almost physically assaulted her (and did assault Faye Walker). 
-Increased use of alcohol and drugs - Rafe has been seen drinking beer all throughout the day.  He even hid a flask when Carly recommended he stop drinking.  Increased use of alcohol and drugs is a sign that someone is trying to escape certain emotions.
-Hyper sexual drive - In addition to alcohol, many men use sex to avoid facing depression.  Rafe has been flirting with nearly every woman in town including Nicole, Stephanie, all the while pressuring Sami for sex to the point of nearly raping her.
-Rule out medical explanation - Sami was very wise to get Rafe physically checked out, as many medical conditions can mimic symptoms of depression.  Hypoglycemia can indeed contribute to depressive mood, but clearly is not the ruling factor in this case.  

If you have ever been in Sami's position, I would suggest it is much more likely that your partner is suffering from depression than being holed up in Stefano's dungeon.  If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or someone you love, please don't hesitate to get help.  It is a sad fact that 75%-80% of all completed suicides in the United States are performed by men, many of whom had no idea how depression in men appears.  But through knowledge and effort we can help those we love live a longer and happier life. 

- WE LOVE SOAPS TV 2.14 Alison Sweeney
- WE LOVE SOAPS TV 2.12 Galen Gering & Chandler Massey

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist in New York City who specializes in treating depression, anxiety, and grief/loss issues.  He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve," currently available at For more information about scheduling an appointment or a speaking engagement, please email him at [email protected].

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