Depression is more than feeling some sadness for a short period of time or getting through a difficult time due to a loss. Depression is a medical condition that severely affects millions of people. Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders. It affects about seven percent of the U.S. population, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Center for Disease Control. Women are much more prone to depression than men, up to 70% according to NAMI research. Young people (ages 18 to 25) may also be be a group at higher risk for depression, as well as financially challenged people. With treatment depression can resolve, but if left untreated, it can be a crippling and debilitating disease that results in devastation for all those that suffer from the disorder, as well as their families and friends.
The symptoms of depression range from deep and pervasive feelings of sadness to physical symptoms like sleep disturbance, fatigue and lack of energy, poor appetite and even aches and pains. Loss of interest in pleasurable things and difficulty concentrating are also common symptoms of depression. Hopelessness, feeling overwhelmed, low self esteem and even thoughts of suicide are frequently experienced. Often a lack of motivation and feeling like even getting out of bed is impossible can create a serious interference in functioning and daily activities.
When these symptoms take control and don’t resolve quickly, treatment is necessary and should be sought immediately. There are many forms of treatment and in-patient hospitalization may be necessary to provide adequate supervision and daily medication management. People with depression are at risk for suicide and also substance abuse, so it is important to be evaluated and treated quickly and appropriately. Treatment may include medication, therapy and, in some cases, brain stimulation treatments like ECT (electroconvulsive therapy.) Exercise, nutritional support, relaxation techniques, support groups and alternative and creative therapies can also provide positive results in treating depression, especially when applied in conjunction with medication and psychotherapies like CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
The causes of depression can be a wide range of possibilities. Genetics often plays a role and brain chemistry and structure can be a factor. Life circumstance and trauma play a large part in depression, creating a precipitating event and triggering a depression, or they may be a result of the depression, with things like homelessness and economic hardship coming from the debilitating effects of the disorder. Women also may be influenced by hormonal changes, particularly childbirth, resulting in postpartum depression. Substance abuse; drugs and alcohol use disorders, are often accompanied by depression in as much as thirty percent of cases. It is difficult to pinpoint a specific cause, however, due to the “chicken or the egg” dilemma. Many things could be a cause of depression or might be a result of depression and each individual case will be different, usually with a combination of things creating the perfect storm, resulting in the depressive episode.
Up to, or slightly more than, 7% of American adults experienced a depressive episode last year, according to statistics reported by both the CDC and NAMI. For some of them it was a single occurrence, but for many of these people depression will repeat over the course of their lifetime. Without treatment these episodes can last for months or even years, but with treatment depression can be managed and controlled, so that the person can function and live a happy and productive life.
If you, or someone you know, may be suffering from depression it is imperative that you seek help immediately. Depression can spiral out of control quickly and can cause serious conditions including psychosis and death by suicide. An evaluation by a qualified and licensed clinician or doctor is necessary to determine the proper course of treatment and the life saving interventions that can make the difference in the course that the depression will take. So, don’t wait; get help now and get on the path to feeling better.
This post was written by: Elizabeth Ossip, LCSW at Beachway Therapy Center