Democratic Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania voluntarily checked himself into a hospital on Thursday “to receive treatment for clinical depression,” according to a statement by Adam Jentleson, his chief of staff.
“Last night, Senator John Fetterman checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to receive treatment for clinical depression,” his chief of staff, Adam Jentleson, said Thursday. “While John has experienced depression off and on throughout his life, it only became severe in recent weeks.”
The expected length of Fetterman’s hospital stay was shared hours after his office revealed that the 53-year-old freshman lawmaker checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Wednesday night.
Fetterman suffered a life-threatening stroke on the campaign trail last year, and he has continued to experience health issues in office. He was hospitalized last week after feeling lightheaded, though doctors ruled out the possibility that he suffered a second stroke, his office said at the time.
“While John has experienced depression off and on throughout his life, it only became severe in recent weeks,” Fetterman’s chief of staff, Adam Jentleson, said in a statement.
“After examining John, the doctors at Walter Reed told us that John is getting the care he needs, and will soon be back to himself,” Jentleson said in that statement released Thursday afternoon.
But Fetterman’s return to the Senate will not be a matter of days.
“We’re looking at a few weeks” of inpatient care, as doctors try different medications and dial in the correct dosages, a senior Fetterman aide on Thursday night. A top staffer for the senator confirmed that timeline to CNBC.
Fetterman’s absence from Capitol Hill will temporarily narrow Democrats’ slim 51-49 Senate majority, potentially making it harder for the polarized chamber to accomplish its goals. Congress is working to craft a bill to raise the U.S. debt ceiling before the summer and prevent the country from defaulting on its obligations, among other legislative priorities. The Senate is not in session next week.
Risks for depression
No one knows the exact cause for depression, and why it is worse in some people than others, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Depression is also more common after having a heart attack or being diagnosed with cancer or chronic pain, and people with anxiety disorders are more likely to suffer from depression, too, the CDC said. Substance abuse, such as alcoholism, is also linked to depressive symptoms.
Feelings of depression can be a side effect of many medications, including common ones such as beta blockers used to treat high blood pressure, some proton pump inhibitors used to treat acid reflux, steroids used for inflammation and pain, hormonal contraceptives and more. A 2018 study found over 37% of US adults used medications that might lead to depression.
Symptoms of depression
Symptoms of depression include an ongoing sad, anxious or vacant mood, along with “feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness or helplessness,” according to the American Stroke Association.
Other symptoms include fatigue and decreased energy; less interest or pleasure in daily activities, including sex; changes in appetite and weight; trouble with memory, concentration, planning and decision-making; sleep changes, such as insomnia or oversleeping; and thoughts of death or suicide.
“One of the symptoms must be a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. Children and adolescents may be irritable rather than sad,” the institute noted.
“We all experience times of sadness, or lack of interest in things we usually enjoy, or other sorts of depressive symptoms,” Ohio State’s Carpenter said. “However, when someone slips into a major depressive episode that means those symptoms are present daily, for most of the day, and they are functionally impairing — meaning they inhibit one’s ability to work, to interface with their families and loved ones, and to engage in the usual activities of living.”
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