Depression is a mood disorder in which someone faces hopelessness and sadness that goes beyond the scope of typical emotions. The disorder not only affects a patient’s moods, but a person with depression may also think and act differently than they used to.
Depression, which is also known as major depressive disorder, is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. The American Psychiatric Association estimates that one in every six individuals will experience depression in their lifetimes. Furthermore, about one in 15 people have depression during any given year.
People who may have depression may not know that help is available. Major depressive disorder is a treatable illness, even though it may feel impossible to overcome when someone is in the throws of it.
It’s typical for people to feel sad or even depressed from time to time. When something upsetting happens in life, that feeling can last several days or even two weeks without being major depressive disorder. While patients who experience this type of mood may benefit from seeing a therapist, it is not the same thing as having depression.
When a patient suffers from depression, the hopelessness and other symptoms last for at least two weeks. The signs of depression also interfere with the person’s ability to live their daily life. Counselors may also diagnose this mental illness if the symptoms have not lasted long but are so severe that the patient is in danger.
Symptoms of depression can vary wildly. For example, some people exhibit uncontrolled anger while others do not have the energy to get out of bed. Furthermore, people with similar symptoms may have different severities of each one. Generally, patients qualify for depression diagnoses if they exhibit at least five of the following symptoms:
Low or depressed mood daily
Intrusive thoughts about death or committing suicide
Feeling uninterested in activities that the patient used to enjoy
Difficulty concentrating or with memory
Unintended weight loss or gain
Feeling guilty or worthless
Trouble with sleep
Fatigue or low energy levels
Clinical depression can have several different causes. Often, understanding the root problem helps therapists and patients design the right treatment plan. Some patients have one clear reason behind their depression, but others may have a mixture of issues playing a role in their disorder. Other people with depression may not understand why they feel this way, but mental health professionals can help.
Sometimes a stressful or sad event in life can set off depression. Losing a loved one, a job, or a relationship can cause immediate grief. However, if those feelings linger for longer than two weeks, a professional may diagnose a patient with depression. Intervention cannot take away the pain, but it can give patients the tools to work through their feelings and function in daily life.
Sometimes depression is a symptom of a physical health problem. People with untreated thyroid or autoimmune diseases may feel depressed alongside their other signs. To treat these types of depression, doctors must treat the condition behind the depression. Patients may also need medications and therapy for a short time.
Some research suggests that depression has a genetic component. For example, when one identical twin develops depression, the other twin has a 70 percent chance of having the disorder as well.
While there seems to be a genetic driver behind some people’s depression, it is not always the case. Researchers must still conduct more studies. However, the information that the community has now generally suggests that about 40 percent of cases have genetic causes while environmental factors make up the other 60 percent.
This research means that children whose parents battle depression may be more likely to develop the disorder. However, it is not a foregone conclusion.
Based on the available research, the mental health community estimates that 80 percent of people with depression feel better when they seek treatment. In some cases, depression lifts when the patient heals from the traumatic event that caused it. These people may struggle with depression at other times in their lives, but they typically do not have chronic problems.
People who have chemical imbalances that cause depression often feel better with the right combination of treatments. It can take time to find the right options. These patients must often continue treatment for years or even throughout their lives. However, effective solutions allow the symptoms of depression to go away.
People with depression often feel hopeless, which can leave them unmotivated to seek treatment. They may wonder why they should even bother or doubt that they are worthy of help. Dispelling both of these thoughts is important. Mental health professionals of many kinds treat depression and want to help.
Bipolar disorder is another mental health condition in which patients have difficulty regulating their emotions and energy levels. People with bipolar disorder experience periods of depression with many of the symptoms above. They also go through episodes of mania.
During manic episodes, patients have high energy levels and may even be reckless. These bouts separate bipolar disorder from clinical depression.
Due to the combination of both manic and depressive periods, “manic depression” and “depressive disorder” are two common names for bipolar disorder. Some people with bipolar disorder initially get misdiagnosed with depression because they are more likely to seek professional help when they experience depressive episodes. However, professionals often see over time that the patient truly has manic depression.