By: Andrew Bicknell
It is one of the most common and most serious mental health problems facing people today. Psychological depression can interfere with a person’s ability to function effectively throughout the day or even to have the motivation to get out of bed in the morning and it is in fact so common that over 1 in 5 Americans can expect to get some form of depression in their lifetime.
The causes behind depression are complex and not yet fully understood but we are able to treat it much more effectively because we have a better understanding of the causes of clinical depression.
The first step in fighting depression is to understand what it is, how it affects you, and what causes it. Unfortunately, many people do not recognize that depression is a treatable illness. Most people with a depressive illness do not seek treatment; although the great majority, even those whose depression is extremely severe can be helped. This condition is so common that over 1 in 5 Americans can expect to get some form of depression in their lifetime.
Symptoms of major depression include at least five of the following symptoms (at least one must include the first and second listed below) and they must be present nearly every day, all day, for 2 weeks: Persistent depressed mood, including feelings of emptiness or sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, feelings of hopelessness or pessimism, feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness, insomnia, early morning awakening or oversleeping, change in eating (either loss or increased appetite), decreased energy, fatigue or feeling slowed down, restlessness and irritability, difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions, thoughts of suicide or death, persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive disorders or chronic pain. A less severe type of depression, Dysthymia, involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning well or from feeling good.
The most important thing anyone can do for the depressed person is to help him or her get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. The guidelines for diagnosis of major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder are found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM IV). The depressed mood must persist for greater than two weeks in order to warrant this diagnosis.
The first step to getting appropriate treatment for depression is a physical examination by a physician. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression. If a diagnosis of depression is made, treatment with medication and/or psychotherapy will help the depressed person return to a happier, more fulfilling life. Most do best with combined treatment: medication to gain relatively quick symptom relief and psychotherapy to learn more effective ways to deal with life’s problems, including depression.
Psychological depression is not something you can just “snap out of”, it is a serious medical condition that affects the chemistry of the brain. With the appropriate medical treatment the vast majority of people of suffer from its effects can live depression free lives.