Who is susceptible to depression? The answer to that is everyone - men, women, children, and the elderly. This illness does not play favorites. It is true that women, on average, are twice as likely to be diagnosed than men; however, men are less likely to seek out treatment. Men tend to commit suicide about four times more often than women. The elderly are another largely untreated population. Their symptoms are often just written off as a result of old age. This is not always the case.
Despite common belief that someone with this illness can just snap out of it at will, this is not true. There is no one thing that is responsible for this disease. It can be genetic and run in families. People with a trauma history and people in chronic pain are susceptible to depression. Other causes include medication and thyroid disease.
When neurotransmitters are too weak or when there are not enough of them, these chemical messengers cannot pass messages between the neurons effectively. You can think of it as being like talking on your cell phone in an area where there is spotty service.
If you or someone you know experience any of the symptoms for more than a two-week period of time, seek medical attention. Some of the symptoms of depression include lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities, isolation, difficulty concentrating or remembering, being irritable, feeling worthless and hopeless, gaining or losing more than 5% of your weight on a month, lack of energy, sleeping too much or having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, thinking about death and suicide, physical pain, digestive problems, headache and hurting all over.
Other forms of the disorder include postpartum and childhood depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder. Postpartum depression can be confusing to new mothers because they feel that they should be happy for having a new baby. In reality, they feel horrible and like they are walking through sludge just to meet the needs of the baby. Children often show that they are depressed through behavior. It is very important to notice and act on any changes in the behavior of children. Children do not usually express how they are feeling verbally because they have not developed the vocabulary to do so. Bipolar disorder runs in families and has periods of elation and dark moods. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is caused by lack of exposure to sunlight. Most people with SAD live in the northern latitudes and experience it during the long, dark winters.
The good news is that treatment is possible. In fact, about 80% of people respond to treatment. The most effective treatment is a combination of behavioral therapy and medication. Stress management, meditation, eating right, exercising and taking time to do enjoyable activities act as preventatives.
Depression is not just a harmless illness. It can be fatal if left untreated. It is nothing to be ashamed of and it certainly is not your fault anymore than it is the fault of a diabetic for needing insulin. If someone you know or if you experience any of the symptoms of depression for two weeks, seek medical advice.