Depression is a real medical condition that affects over 14 million people a year in the United States. Depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain that affect an individual's body, mood, thoughts and behavior. One out of five Americans may experience some form of depression in their lifetime. A depressive episode can be triggered by a stressful event or can occur on its own. This disease can significantly impact both an individual and their family, impairing their ability to function and work.
Symptoms of Depression
The symptoms of depression may include:
- Persistent sad and empty mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure
- Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
- Significant change in appetite or body weight
- Sleep disturbance (difficulty sleeping or oversleeping)
- Physical slowing or agitation
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Impaired concentration and ability to think
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
In addition, depression may result in the following physical symptoms: headaches, other aches and pains, digestive problems and sexual problems.
Myths and Facts
Myth: Depression a sign of personal weakness; they should just "snap out of it."
Fact: One can not just "snap out" of having an illness. Without treatment, depression can last for several weeks to several months and can be deadly.
Myth: Depressed people are crazy.
Fact: With treatment individuals can return to their normal life. Only a small percentage of depressed people need institutional care.
Myth: Depression is normal; everyone gets the blues at times.
Fact: Clinical Depression is more than feeling "blue". It is a pervasive illness that can reduce one's ability to function.
Myth: Depression is a hopeless illness.
Fact: Individuals may have feelings of hopelessness, but treatment is effective.
Causes of Depression
Several factors can be involved in the development of Depression:
- Biochemical functioning - shortages or imbalances of mood-altering chemicals in the brain
- Genetic factors - one may have a biological vulnerability to depression
- Significant life stresses such as a serious loss, chronic illness, difficult relationship, financial problem or any unwelcome change can trigger an episode of depression
The onset of a depressive episode often results from a combination of genetic, psychological and environmental factors.
There are several highly effective treatments including:
- Medication - a variety of antidepressant medications are available to effectively treat chemical imbalances within the brain
- Psychotherapy - can help increase coping skills, identify/recognize warning signs, and provide individual & family education/support; you can have individual, group or family sessions
- ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) is an available and effective treatment. Talk to your physician or psychiatrist for more information on this treatment option.
A typical treatment for depression includes the combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Importance of Psychiatric Treatment & Follow Up
If untreated, an individual may experience thoughts of committing suicide or even a suicide attempt.
Seek help if you are:
- Thinking about suicide
- Experiencing severe mood swings
- Having difficulty functioning at home, work, etc.
- Feeling out of control to handle yourself
Contact the Community Mental Health in your county to inquire on support groups for individuals and families.
Check the Psychology/Mental Health sections of your local bookstore.