What is Depression?
Depression is a mental disorder often accompanied with a depressed mood, and characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness, loss of interest, poor concentration, decreased energy, feelings of low self-worth, and loss of appetite or inability to sleep. Furthermore, depression usually trigger feelings of anxiousness which could become chronic and lead to significant impairments that can affect an individual’s ability to care for his or her daily duties. Several events may contribute to depression, such as the loss of a job, bereavement or some other major life events. Nevertheless, it should be noted that feelings of grief are only considered to be a cause of depression if it persists.
Depression is a recurring problem, as the feeling doesn’t just pass away. An episode of depression may last for more than two weeks and in some cases, it can last for several weeks, months or even years. An individual dealing with depression may have to deal with persistent sadness which is completely different from the occasional mood fluctuations that we all have to contend with as a part of life. In the worst-case scenario, depression can cause the sufferer to commit suicide.
There are several variations of depression that an individual can suffer from, with the broadest peculiarity being in individuals who may or may not have a history of manic episodes. Depressive mood episode can be categorized based on several factors including the severity and number of symptoms.
Typically, it is categorized into severe, moderate or mild. Someone with a mild depressive episode will experience a slight difficulty in keeping up with social activities and some daily tasks, but will probably not stop functioning completely. On the other hand, a severe depressive episode can completely incapacitate the sufferer. The individual’s ability to continue with daily, social and domestic activities will be severely impacted. The bipolar affective disorder usually consists of both depressive episodes and manic often followed by periods of normal mood. Manic episodes are often characterized by increased energy, elevated mood resulting in hyperactivity, and decreased need for sleep. Depression is the leading cause of infirmity for both males and females, WHO revealed that there’s a 50% higher burden of depression for females as opposed to males. Furthermore, depression is especially a huge burden for women in low, middle and high-income countries.
How Prevalent is Depression?
Depression is more prevalent more than you have estimated. According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in the United States alone, an estimated 17.3 million adults reported experiencing at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This represents about 7.1% of all US adults ages 18 and older. This figure is higher in the female counterparts; with adult females experiencing a higher prevalence of a major depressive episode compared to their male counterparts— 8.7% as opposed to 5.3% in adult males. The teenage population (ages 12 to 17) has also reported an increase in cases of depressive mood. The report projected that about 3.2 million adolescents (about 13.3%) had experienced at least one major depressive episode. This figure varies significantly across the different countries of the world. For instance, In Japan lifetime prevalence of depression rates is estimated to be about 3 percent while it is about 16.9 percent in the United States. Several other countries fall between the ranges of about 8 to 12 percent. The absence of a standard diagnostic screening measure makes it quite challenging to examine the difference in depression rates globally. Furthermore, different risk factors and cultural differences affect the expression of the disorder. Generally, the symptoms of depression can be identified across all cultures, however, there are specific risk factors that predispose some individuals to a higher likelihood of been diagnosed with depression.
Some of these factors include –
• Economic disadvantages i.e. poverty.
• Genetics. If someone in your immediate family is suffering from depression, then you’re three times more likely to develop depression at some point.
• Social disadvantages, such as low education.
• Chronic Illness.
• Going through a separation or being divorce
• Exposure to violence.
Out of every ten people, one individual has experienced a major form of depression and practically one out of every five people has suffered from depressive mood during his (or her) lifetime. WHO estimated that by 2030 depression will be the leading contributor to disease burden.
Some interesting statistics
At every given year, major depression affects more than 16.1 million ages 18 and above in the United States alone and about 6.7% of the adult population.
Data reported by the CDC revealed that an estimated 3.2% of adolescents and children (aged 3 - 17years) which represents about 1.9 million persons have been diagnosed with depression. Furthermore, an estimated 7.6% of individuals aged 12 years and above in the U.S. experience depression in any 2 weeks.
These figures show the prevalence of depression and its significance in public health. However, behind these figures are individuals suffering from this disorder and this is certainly more important than the figures. The severity of the emotional pain associated with depression can be best imagined especially if you consider the fact that many people suffering from depression prefer death instead of dealing with the emotional rollercoaster.
Furthermore, the fact that an overwhelming number of people who commit suicide are individuals with depression and mental illness illustrate the need to discuss the management and treatment of the disorder.
Are you depressed or just sad?
Depression is much more than a passing feeling of sadness. The fact is everyone at one point or the other experience low point where we lose motivation or feel upset from time to time. Feeling unmotivated, sad or losing pleasure in daily activities are feelings we all need to contend with at times.
Depression is a lot more severe. As earlier explained, it is a mood disorder usually characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and general loss of interest in daily activities the sufferer previously enjoys. And if this feeling prolongs or persists for at least two weeks, then it is referred to as a depressive episode. If these feelings affect our lives significantly, then it could be a case of depression.
When an individual experience a form of setbacks, whether a job loss, a fight with someone you care about, a bad mark in an exam etc. there may be a mood drop. Dealing with feelings of sadness or irritability, loss of sleep, appetite because of these and some other situations probably indicates that you’re experiencing low-mood. Generally, low-mood will go away after about a week or two. This is especially true if there’s an improvement in the situation that caused it initially.
However, if this feeling prolongs for at least two weeks and if you continue to experience other symptoms like significant changes in appetite, severe feeling of worthlessness, restlessness, guilt, finding it difficult to concentrate or constantly thinking about suicide and these feelings do not go away, then you might be depressed. A lot of people wrongly assume that teenagers don’t suffer from depression, that they are just moody. That’s a myth, depression goes beyond been moody, and even teenagers can be affected.
Types of Depression
Just as there are several causes of depression, there are different forms of depression. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders itemize different types of Depression;
Major depression – This is the most common type of depression and people that experience this form often have to deal with recurrent episodes during their lifetime.
Dysthymia – This refers to a prolonged low mood that could last for a long period.
Seasonal Affective Disorder – This is a type of depression that is caused by a lack of natural sunlight. This usually occurs in wintertime and is experienced by individuals that are sensitive to the lower amount of light during this season.
Atypical Depression – This disorder is associated with people that suffer from relationship problem, they may suffer from irritability and are usually prone to oversleeping and overeating.
Bipolar/Manic Depressive Disorder – This form alternates between mania and depressive episodes.
Psychotic Depression – This is often associated with delusions or hallucinations and in some cases the individual becomes catatonic.
Postpartum Depression – This is a form of disorder that happens after giving birth. The new mother experiences feelings of disconnection from their new baby or anxiety that they may harm the baby.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder – This is triggered during the second half of the menstrual cycle.
Situational Depression – Disorder caused by a life-changing event such as the death of a family member or the loss of a job.
Do you have symptoms of Depression?
If you have ever experienced bouts of depressive mood or low moods, it is likely that you will identify with many of the feelings, thoughts, physical symptoms, and behavioural patterns described below;
Please put a tick right in front of which applies to you regularly -
• Low / Sad / Flat Upset
• Lack of concentration
• Significant changes in appetite
• Lethargic/lacking in energy
• Poor memory
• Fluctuation in sleeping pattern
• I am worthless
• No one cares about me
• I am an utter failure
• I'm a waste of space
• It’s not going to end well
• I am unbothered
• Things will always remain the same for me.
• I am no good.
• Staying in bed more than usual
• Keeping to yourself
• Stopped doing the things you enjoy
• Spending more and more time alone
If you can identify with several of the above listed points, then you may be experiencing symptoms of depression or low moods. However, do not be terrified this is a common problem that can be both managed and Heal. By closely following the steps described in this book, you may be able to discover ways to improve your situation.