Depression disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect 15 million American adults annually. Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss or passing mood states, depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with one’s thoughts, behavior, mood, activity and physical health. Among all medical illnesses, major depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. Unfortunately, people with depression often do not seek treatment, although the great majority can be helped.
Without treatment, the frequency of depressive illness, as well as the severity of symptoms, tend to increase over time. If left untreated, depression can lead to suicide.
Types of depression:
Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. These disabling episodes can occur one or several times in a lifetime. Dysthymia is a less severe type of depression and involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning fully. Bipolar disorder involves cycles of depression and elation or mania. Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems. Bipolar disorder is often a chronic recurring condition.
Symptoms of depressive disorder:
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Decreased energy, fatigue
- Loss of interest/pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness and hopelessness
- Restlessness, irritability
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment (chronic headaches and digestive disorders)
Although depression can be a devastating illness, it is highly treatable; 80 percent to 90 percent of those diagnosed can be effectively treated and return to typical activities.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms associated with a depressive disorder, reach out to your health care provider. Visit the Mayo Clinic’s website to learn more.
Credit: Frontier Behavioral Health. Used with permission.