Depression interrupts many facets of life. It affects how you think, feel and interact with others. When dealing with depression, you might experience low self-esteem, struggle in school or work, or have trouble maintaining relationships.
People develop depression in many ways. Going through a divorce, losing a loved one or getting fired from a job can elicit negative emotions that lead to depressive thoughts. When feelings of sadness, loneliness or fear persist for an extended period of time, depression can take form.
Many individuals grappling with depression turn to drugs or alcohol in order to numb their physical or psychological distress. While these substances might temporarily improve mood, the long-term consequences of substance use can exacerbate mental illness and create a new set of health, social and financial problems.
What Is Depression?
When someone is sad, the feelings usually fade within a few days. Depression is more than just fleeting moments of sadness. It is a complex psychiatric disorder characterized by continuous feelings of hopelessness, irritability, anxiety and guilt. Because it is a chronic brain disease, depression is difficult to overcome.
Depression occurs in people of all ages and backgrounds. In women, depression may appear in the form of guilt, sadness or worthlessness. Men with the disorder may seem angry and aggressive. Children with depression may refuse to go to school or fear being separated from their family, while depressed teens might exhibit irritability, experience eating disorders or engage in substance use.
In the United States, depression is often stigmatized. Many Americans think that depressed individuals are just acting negatively and that their condition can be easily conquered. As a result, many people grappling with depression hide their disorder, endure bullying or physical violence, or fail to seek treatment.
Types of Depression
Depression comes in many forms that range in severity and duration. One person diagnosed with depression might experience a different set of symptoms than someone else with the disorder. The condition isn’t the same for everyone.
Symptoms of Depression
Signs of depression are observable characteristics of the condition in a person. For example, the disorder causes people to appear angry, restless or severely fatigued. They might also socially isolate themselves, lose interest in normal hobbies or fail to complete everyday tasks, like cleaning their home or grooming themselves.
Symptoms are someone’s characteristics that you cannot always see. Symptoms of depression can include physical or mental problems that the individual attempts to hide. Some common symptoms of depression include feelings of pessimism about the future, worthlessness or helplessness.
Additional symptoms of depression include:
- Digestive problems
- Weight gain or loss
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory problems
- Frequent thoughts of death
- Substance use
Depression is often characterized by perpetual unhappiness. In many instances, people might not understand why they are unhappy. In other cases, depressed people try to hide their symptoms or overcome them without professional assistance. In fact, senior citizens often ignore their symptoms of depression and refuse to seek treatment.
In extreme cases, depression can result in thoughts of suicide. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 60 percent of individuals who commit suicide have a mood disorder like depression. If you or a loved one experience suicidal thoughts caused by depression, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.
How Is Depression Diagnosed?
Depression is a clinical disorder. It is listed on the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a handbook released by the American Psychiatric Association that provides clinicians guidelines for diagnosing psychiatric disorders.
- How often do you experience depressive episodes?
- Have you had any suicidal thoughts?
- Do you consistently experience quality sleep at night? Do you have any difficulties falling asleep?
- How are your energy levels? Do you consistently lack energy?
- Do you prefer to stay home or go out and socialize?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms must persist for at least two weeks in order to receive a clinical diagnosis of depression.
Causes of Depression
People develop depression in different ways. Depression may be caused by a multitude of factors, including genetics, medical problems, medications, stressful life events or a combination of these influences. Over time, these factors change how the brain regulates mood.
Causes of depression may include:
- Environmental Factors
- Bad roommates, cramped living quarters and financial problems are associated with depression. Environmental factors can also include having a difficult job or experiencing an assault.
- Brain Chemistry
- Changes to the neurochemicals in the brain can affect mood stability and bring on depressive episodes.
- Diet and Exercise
- Consuming large amounts of fast food, caffeine and alcohol contributes to depressive episodes. People who do not exercise are also at an increased risk for developing depression.
- Hormonal changes can lead to depression, too. For example, pregnancy and the months after giving birth are associated with changes to the body’s balance of hormones.
Interpersonal communication can also contribute to depression. Arguing with a loved one, harboring anger toward a friend or having trouble getting along with a manager or coworker can play a role in developing depression.
Risk Factors for Depression
Depression can develop more easily in some people than in others. For example, having relatives with depression increases your risk for developing the disorder. Scientists are still trying to identify the exact genes that may trigger the onset of depression.
People who experience major life changes, like losing a job or moving away from loved ones, are susceptible to depression. These changes can elicit stress, isolation and negative thoughts. Simultaneously dealing with multiple life changes can raise a person’s chances of developing depression.
A serious illness, like Parkinson’s disease, can also contribute to depression. It isn’t uncommon for someone experiencing chronic pain or cancer to have depressive thoughts. Chronic sleep problems are also associated with bouts of low mood.
Depression and Substance Abuse
Depression and substance use often co-occur. A 2008 study published in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry found that nearly one-third of patients with major depressive disorder also grapple with a substance use disorder.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 20 percent of people in the United States with a mood disorder, like depression, also have a substance use disorder. Conversely, about 20 percent of Americans with a substance use disorder also have an anxiety or mood disorder.
Many teens with depression use drugs or alcohol. According to a survey of ninth-grade students by researchers at the University of Southern California, symptoms of depression were heavily associated with lifetime use of cigarettes, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana and prescription painkillers.
Statistics on Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the world. With more than 300 million people affected worldwide, depression is the leading cause of disability in the world and significant contributor to the global burden of disease.
More facts about Depression:
- According to the Department of Health and Human Services, women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression.
- The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 12.5 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 had a major depressive episode in 2015.
- According to the National Institute of Mental Health report, people of two or more races had the highest prevalence of major depressive episodes among all race groups measured.
- Between 4 and 6 percent of Americans grapple with seasonal affective disorder, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
In the United States, depression has reached epidemic proportions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 8 percent of American adults aged 20 or older experienced depression in a given two-week period from 2013 to 2016.
Treatment for Depression
People with depression cannot will their disorder away. Because it is a brain disease, extensive treatment is needed for people to learn to manage their symptoms. In treating depression, health care professionals employ a combination of medications and psychotherapies.
Some medications used in treating depression include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Prozac, Zoloft)
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (Cymbalta, Effexor XR)
- Atypical antidepressants (Remeron, Trintellix)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (Tofranil, Norpramin)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (Parnate, Nardil)
Psychotherapies that are used to manage depression include cognitive behavioral therapy. When treating depression, the goal of psychotherapy is to help people understand the causes of their condition, replace negative thoughts with positive ones, and regain a sense of satisfaction and control in their lives.
Individuals dealing with co-occurring disorders must have both conditions treated in order to successfully manage the pair over time. Treating one disorder but failing to treat the other can prolong rehab and increase the risk of future substance use.
The Recovery Village simultaneously treats co-occurring disorders, including those involving depression and addiction. With locations across the United States, The Recovery Village provides a safe and secure environment for people to heal. Each treatment plan is catered to the patient’s specific needs. The longer you wait to seek treatment, the worse your depression can become. Make the call today.