Depression is an illness
that involves the body and the mind, negatively affecting how you feel and act, and the way you think. Let’s talk for a minute about what depression is not. It is not simply “feeling down.” It is not a sign of personal weakness. Finally, it is not a condition that can simply be willed away. Telling someone who suffers from depression to, “pull yourself together!” or “cheer up!” does not help – they simply can’t make themselves feel better. Depression is a mind/body issue and people experiencing a major depression need to seek professional treatment, just as they would for any other major illness.
Depression is common; an estimated one in ten adults in the United States are living with major depression. It affects almost twice as many women as men and, on average, first appears during the late teens to mid-20’s. Increasingly, younger people are reporting increased levels of stress and depression, including school-age children. Depression is also very common in older adults – in fact, older white males age 85 and older have the highest suicide rate in the U.S.
(Depending on the individual, symptoms including the frequency, severity and duration will vary.)
- Deep feeling of sadness or anxiousness
- Change in sleep habits: Insomnia or oversleeping
- Changes in appetite – overeating or appetite loss
- Loss of interest and pleasure in activities and hobbies
- Loss of energy and increased fatigue
- Restlessness and irritability
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt or helplessness
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that persist, even with treatment
- Thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide
It’s important to understand that depression can affect anyone – even that person you may know who seems to “have it all together.” There are several factors that can play a role in the onset of depression:
- Genetics – Some types of depression can run in families; however, it can also occur in people without family histories of depression.
- Biochemistry – Depressive disorders are disorders of the brain; brain-imaging technologies have shown that the brains of people with depression look different than those of people without it.
- Personality – People who are generally pessimistic appear to be vulnerable to depression as well as those who are easily overwhelmed by stress or suffer from low self-esteem.
- Environmental factors – Certain medical conditions can cause depression and continuous exposure to situations like violence, neglect or poverty may make people more vulnerable to depression, especially if they are already susceptible to the disease.
- Stressful situations – Trauma, loss of a loved one or a difficult relationship may trigger depression.
The good news is that even in the most severe cases, depression can be treated! There are many effective therapies for treatment, but one of the most important considerations is timing – the earlier treatment can begin, the better the results. Most people with depression eventually respond well to treatment and almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. Depending on each individual case, treatment may include one or some combination of these:
- Changing diet
- Brain stimulation therapies
The most important thing in dealing with depression is to get a diagnosis and treatment. An evaluation can reveal specific symptoms, medical and family history, environmental factors, and any other information necessary to reach a proper diagnosis and determine the best treatment. Effective treatments and actions can be taken to overcome this illness…we’ve supported many clients as they have conquered depression!
More Information on Depression from Psychology Today
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1 (800) 273- TALK (8255)
Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States.