Approximately 20 million Americans are living with major depression. Depression is a state that most everyone finds themselves in at some point in their live, whether it is due to the loss of a job, or a loved one, or damage to our self-esteem. We may find ourselves feeling sad, lonely, or hopeless, all of which are perfectly normal feelings in given circumstances.
When those feelings persist for a period of weeks or months, however, they can become overwhelming, to the point of impeding your ability to lead a normal life. At this point, the problem has progressed into major or clinical depression. This is also the time when you are advised to seek medical help.
Symptoms of depression include any number or combination of the following:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering minor details, or making decisions.
- Decreased energy and fatigue
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness
- A pessimistic attitude
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
- Loss of interest in sex
- Constant aches, pains, cramps, or digestive problems that do not respond to treatment
- Persistent sad, empty, or anxious feelings
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts to harm one's self.
Depression carries a high suicide risk, and anybody who exhibits suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very seriously. Call your local suicide hotline immediately if you become aware of this problem.
Depression is referred to in the medical field as Major Depressive Disorder, and it isn't something you can just snap out of. It is theorized that an imbalance of brain chemicals as well as certain life events are primary causes of depression.
A person experiencing a major depressive episode will exhibit a very bad or negative mood, which affects all aspects of his/her life, and a marked inability to experience pleasure in activities that they may have formerly enjoyed. The depressed person may be overcome with feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or regret, punctuated by a feeling of self-hatred. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to, poor concentration and memory, withdrawal from social situations, reduced sex drive, and preoccupation with death.
Depression tends to run in families, which may bolster the theory that chemical imbalances are somehow involved. However, social and psychological problems may also be suspect, the result of child abuse, neglect, severe marital conflict or divorce, death of a parent, or other familial disturbances may also contribute to the onset of depression.
Depression is a treatable problem, provided that the people suffering from it recognize that they have a problem and take steps to manage it. Psychotherapy, medication such as anti-depressants, and electroconvulsive therapy are the three most common methods for treating depression. Treatment is usually administered on an outpatient basis; inpatient care is only considered if the patient poses any threat to his safety or that of someone else.
Physical exercise is commonly recommended by doctors as a solid method of alleviating depression symptoms; however it may not be as effective in cases of major depressive episodes.
Many major depressive effects can often resolve over a period of time. Studies have indicated a 1-0-15% reduction in symptoms within a few months, with nearly 20% no longer meeting the criteria for a depressive disorder. The highest rate of recovery is typically exhibited during the first three months.
Most people with depressive disorders will suffer an average of 4 major episodes over the course of their lives. Depressed people often have a shorter life expectancy than those without depression, a conclusion drawn by the fact that depressed patients are at greater risk of dying by suicide. Of course they also have an increased chance at developing other medical conditions as well, such as heart disease or stress induced problems.
If you are experiencing any combination of the symptoms listed above, see your primary care physician as soon as possible. They will be able to start you on a course of treatment that can help you cope with your depression, and have the life you deserve to live.