Although almost everyone feels sad, blue or even mildly depressed once in awhile, many people feel so sad and depressed that it interferes with being able to function and enjoy life. For some, depression is so severe that it leads to suicide. It’s important that people understand what depression is, how it’s different for different people, and how to get help for it.How prevalent is depression? The number of people suffering from depression seems to be increasing, affecting upwards to about 12 million adults in the United States. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), by 2020, depression will be the second biggest health problem, second only to heart disease.
Who is affected by depression? Although it can arise at any age, from young children to older adults, depression typically begins in the late 20s. Depression crosses all races, ethnicity, and gender, but twice as many women are diagnosed with depression as men. This may be due in part because women are more likely to seek treatment for depression.
What causes depression? As with many mental illnesses, it’s thought that a variety of biochemical, genetic and environmental factors may cause depression. Some people feel depressed from one-time events and for others depression is a chronic state that is long lasting and severe.
Depression is influenced by many situations in life that are difficult to cope with, such as the loss of a loved one, a relationship ending, a loss of a job, retirement and stressful life events such as going off to college, having a long illness or giving birth. Even the current economic problems are causing depression for many Americans.
Being sad and blue is different than being clinically depressed. The term clinical depression refers to an emotional disorder that is not solely caused by external situations such as a loss of a loved one or job, but may also be influenced by a defect in the brain’s ability to regulate certain chemicals in the brain. When chemicals are not released at appropriate times these people feel sad even when their circumstances and experiences aren’t appearing difficult or their life would seem happy to other people not experiencing depression. It’s important to understand that clinical depression is caused by this physical chemical imbalance and therefore needs to be treated differently than depression without this chemical imbalance.
What are the symptoms? Although depression symptoms may be so severe that it’s obvious something isn’t right, some people feel sad or unhappy without really knowing why. Depressive symptoms vary because different people experience depression in different ways, depending on many variables including age, gender, and family history of depression.
Being mildly sad and blue is different than being depressed enough to warrant professional care. It’s important to determine the severity of symptoms and how long they last. Symptoms that occur nearly every day for two or more weeks is an important criteria for major depression. Symptoms include,
- General lack of interest or enjoyment in anything, including family, career, and social activities
- Neglect of personal care and hygiene
- Constantly feeling tired and exhausted with little or no activity
- Low self esteem and feeling worthless
- Changing or irregular sleeping patterns
- Spending lots of time thinking about things that have gone wrong
- Trouble focusing, concentrating and difficulty making decisions
- Crying spells for no apparent reason
- Constant feelings of sadness and irritability or mood changes
- Feeling hopeless
- Thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior
- Unintentional weight gain or loss
- Loss of interest in sex
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain, stomach aches or headaches
- Reluctance to leave home
Depression can be treated if diagnosed. If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself or any one you know, find help. Where to get help? Depression is a serious problem that can be treated effectively if caught before severe depression has began to set in. Due to the stigma attached to seeking help, many people reach out for help only when depression combined with physical ailments has reached a serious stage.
Many people are reluctant to let others know they are depressed because they believe that their depression would be viewed as a sign of weakness. They know they are depressed and want help, but are not comfortable speaking to someone in person. Finding help over the Internet may be the answer for those people too ashamed or embarrassed to tell family and friends or even be seen going into a therapist’s office.
People don’t have to suffer in silence. Help is conveniently accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the privacy and comfort of their own home. Do not wait until the depression becomes too severe. Help is only a mouse click away.