Talk Facts About Depression
death of a loved one, loss of a job, or the ending of a relationship
are difficult experiences for an individual to endure. It is normal
for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to
situations. Those experiencing trying times often might describe
themselves as being "depressed." But sadness and
depression are not the same. While feelings of sadness will
lessen with time, the disorder of
depression can continue for months, even years.
Depression is a serious medical illness that negatively affects
how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. It is a common
each year affects 17 million Americans (nearly one in 10). Depression
does not discriminate; it affects men and women, young and old,
and people of all races, cultures, and incomes.
Fortunately, depression is very treatable. The majority (80%-90%)
of people who receive treatment experience significant improvement,
almost all individuals derive some benefit from medical care.
Unfortunately, individuals may not recognize their symptoms as
signs of an illness, or they may fear the reactions of coworkers,
and family. As a result, millions of people with depression do
not seek treatment and unnecessarily experience problems at their
jobs or in their
The costs of depression can be severe. The estimated financial
costs of depression in missed days at work, medical expenses, and
death are $43 billion annually. If you or someone you know may
have depression, consult with a psychiatrist or other medical doctor.
is one of the most treatable mental illnesses, and, with proper
treatment, individuals can regain a healthy outlook on life.
What Is Depression?
has a variety of symptoms, but the most common is a deep feeling
of sadness. People with depression may feel tired,
helpless, and generally overwhelmed by life. Simple pleasures
are no longer enjoyed, and their world can appear dark and
and physical withdrawal are common responses of depressed people.
Depression can strike at any time, but most often appears for
the first time during the prime of life, from ages 24 to 44.
and one in 10 men will confront depression at some point in their
Symptoms of Depression
is diagnosed if a person experiences:
1) persistent feelings of sadness
or anxiety or
2) loss of interest or
pleasure in usual
activities in addition to five or more of the following symptoms
for at least 2
• Changes in appetite that result in weight losses or gains not related
• Insomnia or oversleeping
• Loss of energy or increased fatigue
• Restlessness or irritability
• Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
• Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
• Thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide
Depression is diagnosed only if the above symptoms are not due
to other conditions (e.g., neurological or hormonal problems)
illnesses (e.g., cancer, heart attack) and are not the unexpected side effects
of medications or substance abuse.
What Causes Depression?
factors play a role in the onset of depression:
Deficiencies in two chemicals in the brain, serotonin and norepinephrine,
are thought to be responsible for certain symptoms
of depression, including anxiety, irritability, and fatigue.
Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical
twin has depression, the other twin has a 70% chance
of also having
sometime in life.
People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed
by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear
to be vulnerable
Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse,
or poverty may make people who are already susceptible
to the illness.
However, it should be noted that depression can
still occur under ideal living circumstances.
How Is Depression Treated?
depression cannot be controlled for any length of time simply through
or by taking
But it is among the most treatable of mental
disorders. Between 80% and 90% of people with depression respond
well to treatment,
and almost all
patients gain some relief from their symptoms.
Before a specific treatment is recommended,
a psychiatrist will conduct a thorough diagnostic
consisting of an interview
and a physical
examination. Its purpose is to reveal specific
symptoms, medical and family history, cultural
to arrive at a proper diagnosis and to determine
the best treatment.
Antidepressants may be prescribed to correct
imbalances in the levels of chemicals in the
not sedatives, "uppers," or
tranquilizers; they are not habit-forming;
and they generally have no stimulating effect
not experiencing depression.
Antidepressants usually take full effect within
3-6 weeks after therapy has begun. If little
or no improvement
is noted after
6-8 weeks, the
psychiatrist will alter the dose of the medication
will add or substitute another antidepressant.
Psychiatrists usually recommend
continue to take medication for 5 or more months
after symptoms have improved.
Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," may
be used either alone for treatment of mild
depression or in combination
with antidepressant medications for moderate to severe depression.
Psychotherapy can involve only the individual patient
or include others. Family or couples therapy
helps to address
issues that can arise
within these close relationships. Group therapy
involves people with similar illnesses. Depending
on the severity
of the depression,
can take a few weeks or substantially longer.
However, in many cases, significant improvement can be made
in 10-15 sessions.