Depression and anxiety are considered the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Today’s blog focus will be on depression. (Click here to read our post on anxiety.)
It’s estimated that around 300 million people globally are suffering from depression. This number is likely higher than the estimation, as many people do not seek medical help or reach out when suffering.
*From August-December 2020, the CDC reported that around 30% of adults in the US identified with struggling with depression. Studies have consistently shown an increase in mental health issues due to disease outbreak, social limitation, and fear.
What is Depression?
Major Depressive Disorder is the medical name for depression. It is a medical and mental illness that greatly affects how you feel, the way you process and think about things, and your choices and actions.
The Mayo Clinic defines depression this way:
“Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living. More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychotherapy or both.”
- Women are much more likely to suffer from depression than men. 1 in 3 women will reportedly experience a major depressive episode during their life.
- It can affect anyone at any age. The average first onset is for older teens-mid 20’s.
- 1 in 6 people will be affected by depression in their lifetime.
- Genetics seem to play a part. Some medical professionals argue it could just be environment, and not necessarily genetic. Either way, people are 40% likely to struggle with depression themselves if they are around a parent, sibling, or child, that struggles with it.
Most Common Symptoms of Depression
- A sudden change in sleep issues- wanting to sleep all the time OR struggling with insomnia and not being able to sleep enough
- Feeling sad, emotional, hopeless, empty, worthless, feeling recurring/inappropriate guilt
- A loss of interest in things
- Decreased or non-existent libido
- Increased irritability, anxiety, anger, frustration over even small things
- Lack of energy and motivation to do daily tasks; increased fatigue
- A change in appetite- not wanting to eat and weight loss OR eating much more and gaining weight
- Cognitive difficulties- decisions and clear thinking can be much harder, memory issues, inability or trouble focusing, etc
- New, unexplained physical aches and pains
- Increased alcohol or substance use or abuse
- Less common, but most serious- thoughts of suicide or death. If this is present, please seek help immediately. Click here or call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 for the veterans crisis hotline.
Types of Depression
Depression is not all the same. There are different types of depression.
- Major Depression – this is when a person struggles with multiple symptoms listed above for more than 2 weeks straight. Major depression manifests in different ways with different people, including melancholy, anxiousness, and agitation.
- Bipolar Disorder – also called “manic depression”, is indicated by extreme moods and mood swings. There are really high “ups”, and very low “downs”. During the down phases, the person will struggle with major depression.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder – someone who has struggled with major depression for 2 or more years may suffer from persistent depressive disorder.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a period of depression that onsets during winter/cold months. It’s thought to be due to decrease of natural light and shorter days. Most people with SAD don’t suffer during spring and summer months when there are longer days and more light.
- Psychotic Depression – a less common type of depression, accompanied by hallucinations, severe anxiety, delusion, and paranoia.
- Postpartum Depression – depression that onsets after the birth of a child. Most common in women, but some men experience it as well. It is thought to happen due to huge hormonal changes, sleeplessness, life changes, etc. that accompany having a new baby.
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) – women who have PMDD have depression symptoms at the start of each monthly menstrual cycle.
- Situational Depression – also called stress-induced or stress-response depression, the onset is from going through big changes or difficult times due to an event, loss, or situation. This type of depression usually is temporary and gets better when there is healing or resolution with the event/situation.
- Atypical Depression – this type of depression has symptoms that are different from the traditional ones mentioned above. There is usually more mood improvement around happy/good events in someone suffering from atypical depression.
Although the stigma around mental health and depression has lessened a lot in the past 10 years, depression is still highly misunderstood.
Here are some common MYTHS around depression:
- Depression is a personal weakness. Depressed people are lazy or dramatic. This is untrue! Depression is a serious mental health issue that needs to be recognized and treated. Depression is most often though to be caused/brought on by genetics, events that occurred, trauma, certain medications, and medical problems.
- Depression only affects certain types of people. FALSE! Depression doesn’t differentiate between race, gender, age, background. Some factors DO increase the likelihood, but people from any background can suffer from depression.
- Depressed people are dangerous. Most people with depression never hurt anyone. Of course, if you are suffering and thinking of hurting yourself, or someone else, please seek help immediately! Click here or call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 for the veterans crisis hotline.
- Depression will just go away if you are strong. It isn’t a big deal, nothing to worry about. While some very mild depression may improve over time with lifestyle changes, most people need professional help to get better.
Mental Health Ratings
Mental Health can be tricky to rate. Oftentimes, medical providers cannot physically “see” the symptoms, and intensity and longevity of mental health symptoms ebb and flow for many. Read the FULL blog post on mental health ratings here.
**Make sure to read next week’s blog post, which will address treatment options and help for living and dealing with depression!