It is estimated that depression affects approximately 1 in 10 Americans, and a total of 350 million people worldwide. It is a leading cause of disability as well as disease, and women are affected more often than men. Everyone feels down or sad at times, especially after a significant loss or disappointment. However, people with depression feel down most or all of the time, and it can last for months or even years.
Only about a third of the people who are depressed actually get help. Some people feel depression is simply a weakness or character flaw that can be overcome with sheer willpower. Unfortunately, serious depression cannot be overcome by willpower or even psychotherapy alone. It usually involves a chemical imbalance in the brain and until it is corrected, the depression persists.
Signs of depression
Not everyone recognizes they are depressed. Or, they may think it is simply a “phase” that will go away in time. The most common symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of sadness that don’t go away
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt
- A decrease in energy and/or persistent lethargy
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- A loss or increase in appetite and weight
- A loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- Restlessness or irritability
- Persistent thoughts of suicide or death
Types of depression
Persistent Depressive Disorder
This term refers mostly to the duration of the depression, which can last for several years. Persistent Depressive Disorder is continuous, although it can vary in severity. A person might simply seem negative all the time, as if it is a personality trait rather than a treatable disease.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
Also called major depression or clinical depression, this affects twice as many women as it does men. It begins most often in the early to mid 20s. It is episodic in nature, and an episode lasts at least two weeks. A person may have a single episode, however, multiple events are more frequent.
Also called manic depression, this disorder usually involves severe lows during depression and extreme highs during mania. Gone untreated, this disorder can negatively affect relationships, jobs, and daily living, with suicide as a possibility. Both depression and mania are concerns.
Feeling sadness and hopelessness
Trouble concentrating & making decisions
Change in sleep patterns
Change in eating habits
Suicidal thoughts or behavior
Talking very fast, having racing thoughts
Being easily distracted
Taking on too many projects
Needing little sleep and not being tired
Impulsive, high risk behavior
Other forms of depression
Some depressions are based on other disorders, certain events or even the time of year.
Psychotic depression occurs when depression is combined with psychosis, including false beliefs, delusions and hallucinations.
Postpartum depression is a severe depression that occurs after women give birth, affecting an estimated 10-15% of mothers.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression that typically occurs during the winter months when there is less sunlight.