Major Depressive Disorders

Facts
  • In any given year, 9.5% of the population (that’s over 18 million American adults) suffer from a depressive illness.
  • A depressive disorder is not the same as just “feeling blue.” It is not a sign of personal weakness nor can it be willed or wished away.
  • Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years.
  • Some types of depression run in families, which suggest the illness is biologically inherited.
  • Medical illnesses such as stroke, a heart attack, or cancer can cause depressive illness.
  • Women experience depression about twice as often as men.
  • Although men are less likely to admit to depression, the rate of suicide in men is four times that of women.
  • Depression can affect anyone of any age, race, economic status, nationality, or background.

 

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Typical symptoms of Major Depression include persistent sadness, emptiness, feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, feelings of guilt, loss of interest in pleasure hobbies that were once enjoyed, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, oversleeping, change in weight, thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts, and irritability.

But depression can manifest itself in a variety of different ways depending on the disposition of the individual. An obvious sign that one might be suffering from depression is that they exhibit these symptoms for no apparent external reason. However, the onset of severe depression can occur as a result of life circumstances, such as losing a job, divorce, or experiencing the death of a loved one. If the symptoms persist for extended periods of time after unpleasant events occur, it could be that Major Depression has set in. Visiting a family physician and getting a complete physical examination is the first step in assessing whether or not a person is suffering from Major Depression. This is necessary because certain medications or medical conditions can mimic the same symptoms as depression and these need to be ruled out. A thorough diagnostic evaluation including a complete history of symptoms, drug and alcohol abuse, and a family history of illnesses should be conducted to determine whether or not Major Depression is present.

 

Treatment

Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy are the most common treatments for Major Depression. A combination of the two is highly recommended, as the antidepressants allow relatively quick symptom relief while the psychotherapy enables individuals with the illness to discover the root of their problem (low self-esteem, unhealthy lifestyle, lack of coping skills, etc). Alcohol and substance abuse are highly common among people suffering from depression. Victims mistakenly assume that they can “self-medicate” with drugs and alcohol. If dependence has developed, rehabilitation programs are strongly recommended. Each patient’s depression is highly specific and a thorough diagnosis must be made by a physician or psychiatrist to suggest the most appropriate treatment

NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) Fourth Edition, The American Psychiatric Association, Washington D.C. Copyright 2000
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