What is depression?
Depression, also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration. It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly, emotionally and physically, and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. Depending on the number and severity of symptoms, a depressive episode can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. Depression can be long-lasting or recurrent and if not effectively treated, depression is likely to become a chronic disease. Without proper help and knowledge, depression can often lead to suicide.
Risk Factors. Depression is associated with significant healthcare needs, school problems, loss of work, and earlier mortality. Other factors include:
• low self-esteem and being too dependent, self-critical or pessimistic
• Traumatic or stressful events, such as physical or sexual abuse, the death or loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or financial problems
• Trauma or depression that started as a teen or child
• History of depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism or suicide in the family
• Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in an unsupportive situation
• History of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorder, eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
• Abuse of alcohol or prescription/illegal drugs
• Serious or chronic illness, including cancer, stroke, chronic pain or heart disease
• Certain medications, such as some high blood pressure medications or sleeping pills (talk to your doctor before stopping any medication)
Diagnosis—which should be from a health care professional—depends on the number, severity, and duration of depressive symptoms. A person must experience five or more symptoms below for a continuous period of at least two weeks:
• depressed mood
• loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities
• changes in appetite or weight
• disturbed sleep or sleeping too much
• slowed or restless movements
• fatigue or loss of energy
• feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
• trouble thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
• thoughts of death or suicide
Treatment involves medication and/or psychological counseling (psychotherapy). Health-care providers may offer psychological treatments (such as behavioral activation, cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT], and interpersonal psychotherapy [IPT]) or antidepressant medication (such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs] and tricyclic antidepressants [TCAs]).
If you have severe depression, you may need a hospital stay, or you may need to participate in an outpatient treatment program until your symptoms improve.
Depression by the numbers:
- Affects about 350 million people worldwide and is a leading cause of disability
- Affects more than 15 millions American adults age 18 and older in a given year
- It is estimated that 16-20 out of 100 people will have depression at least once in their lives
- Affects women more than men
- At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Nearly 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds
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