An estimated one-fifth of 15 adults (6.7%) are affected by depression in any given year. One in six people will experience depression (6.6%) at some point in their lives. Depression can strike at any age, but it is most common in the late teens and mid-20s. Depression is more common in women than it is in men. According to some studies, one third of women will experience major depression in their lifetime. There is a high degree of heritability (approximately 40%) when first-degree relatives (parents/children/siblings) have depression.
What is Depression?
Major depressive disorder (depression) is a serious medical condition that can negatively impact your mood, behavior and thinking. It is treatable. Depression can cause sadness, and/or loss of interest in once-exciting activities. Depression can cause a host of emotional and physical issues that can impact your ability to perform at work and at home.
How Common is Depression?
Depression is a common condition in the world. According to healthcare providers, nearly 7% of Americans suffer from depression each year. Over 16% of Americans will experience depression during their lifetime, or 1 in 6.
The causes of depression are not well understood by the medical community. There are many causes of depression, and sometimes multiple factors can trigger symptoms.
Factors that could play a role in this include:
- Genetic features
- environmental factors
- Changes in brain neurotransmitter levels
- Psychological and social factors
- Additional conditions include bipolar disorder.
Depression can manifest as more than just a feeling of sadness or “blue” in your life.
Multiple symptoms can be caused by major depression. Some symptoms can affect your mood while others can affect your body. Some symptoms may be persistent, while others can disappear at any time.
Different symptoms of depression may be experienced by different people.
Men might experience symptoms that are related to:
- Sexual interest can be expressed in the form of reduced sexual desire or a lack thereof.
- Emotional well-being is characterized by feeling empty, sad or hopeless.
- A mood can be anger, aggression, irritability or restlessness.
- Behaviors such as losing interest in hobbies, feeling tired easily and thoughts of suicide, excessive drinking, drug use, or engaging in high-risk activity.
- Sleep patterns include insomnia, restlessness, excessive sleepiness and not sleeping through the night.
- Cognitive abilities include inability to focus, difficulty completing tasks and delayed responses during conversations.
- Physical well-being includes fatigue, headaches, stomach problems, and pains.
Some symptoms that women may experience are:
- Sleep patterns include difficulty sleeping through the night or waking up early.
- Irritation can be a sign of mood.
- Behaviors such as losing interest in activities, withdrawal from social engagements, and thoughts of suicide
- Physical well-being includes decreased energy, fatigue, weight fluctuations, changes in appetite, weight, aches, pains, headaches and increased cramps
- Emotional well-being is characterized by feeling happy, empty, anxious, or hopeless.
- Cognitive abilities include thinking and talking slower, as well as cognitive skills like slow thinking.
Children might experience symptoms that are related to:
- Moods such as anger, irritability and crying
- Sleep patterns such as difficulty or excessive sleeping can be described as sleep disorders.
- Behaviors such as refusing to attend school, getting in trouble at school, or refusing to leave school, avoidance of friends and siblings, or thoughts about death or suicide
- Emotional well-being can be described as feeling of incompetence, despair, or emotional well-being. Feelings of incompetence (e.g., “I can’t make anything right”), despair, or intense sadness
- Cognitive abilities such as difficulty concentrating, declining school performance, and changes in grades can all be attributed to cognitive limitations.
- Physical well-being includes loss of energy, digestive issues, changes in appetite and weight gain.
These symptoms may go beyond your awareness.
The symptoms of depression can range from mild to severe. They can also include:
- Feeling depressed or sad
- Weight loss or gain that is not related to dieting — changes in appetite
- Activity loss or enjoyment that was once enjoyed
- Trouble sleeping, or too much sleep
- It is important to rule out other medical conditions, such as thyroid problems, brain tumors, or vitamin deficiencies, that can mimic depression symptoms.
- Increased purposeless activity (e.g. inability to sit still or pacing, handwringing or slow movements or speech)
- Increased fatigue or loss of energy
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Suicide or death thoughts
- Difficulty in thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- For a diagnosis of depression, symptoms must last at most two weeks. They must also be accompanied by a change in your normal functioning.
Risk Factors for Depression
Depression can strike anyone, even those who appear to be in relatively good health.
Depression can be caused by many factors:
- Factors such as environment: Some people are more susceptible to depression if they are constantly exposed to violence, neglect or abuse.
- Genetics: Depression is a common condition in families. If one twin is depressed, there’s a 70% chance that the other will also have the disease.
- Biochemistry: Depression symptoms may be caused by differences in brain chemicals
- Personality: People who have low self-esteem and are easily overwhelmed by stress or are generally pessimistic are more likely to suffer from depression.
Treatment for Depression
Depression can be difficult to live with, but there are ways to improve your quality life. Discuss your options with your healthcare provider.
One treatment may be sufficient to manage your symptoms. Other treatments may prove more effective.
Combining medical treatment with lifestyle therapies is common, such as the following:
Your healthcare provider might prescribe:
- Antipsychotic medication
Every type of medication used to treat depression comes with its own benefits and risks.
Talking to a therapist can help with managing negative emotions. Group or family therapy sessions may be beneficial.