According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, depression is a mood state that “goes beyond temporarily feeling sad or blue. It is a serious medical illness that affects one’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, mood and physical health.”
Depression affects 5-8 percent of adults in any given year, for a total of about 25 million Americans, though only half that experience a depressive episode will seek out treatment.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the signs and symptoms of depression include:
1. Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
2. Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
3. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
4. Irritability, restlessness
5. Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
6. Fatigue and decreased energy
7. Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
8. Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
9. Overeating, or appetite loss
10. Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States and the average age of onset is 32 years old. A little more than three percent of those aged 13-18 have experienced a serious, debilitating major depressive episode as well. All age groups and all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups can experience depression.
Treatments for depression include antidepressants, such as Prozac or Effexor; psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or psychoanalysis; and brain stimulation therapies, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other methods of stimulating the brain.
For the loved ones of someone who is depressed, the most important thing according to the National Institute of Mental Health is to “help your friend or relative get a diagnosis and treatment.” Additionally, the organization adds, “Encourage your loved one to stay in treatment, or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs after 6 to 8 weeks.”
Also, many organizations and websites offer free self-assessment questionnaires if you think you are suffering from depression. These include The Health Center, Psychology Today, and Mental Health America.
Finally, if you are having thoughts of harming yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number at 1-800-273-8255.
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