Just about everyone will experience depression at some point in their life. Depression affects about 10 percent of the US population each year, which amounts to 18.8 million people. The World Health Organization indicates that by 2020 depression will be the second leading cause of death after heart disease. Therefore, it is important to recognize the possible signs of depression as early as possible so effective treatment options can be found.
There are three different classifications for clinical depression. These include: Major depression, which interferes with your ability to perform normal daily activities such as eating, sleeping, working and your ability to enjoy activities; Dysthymia, which symptoms are not as severe, but persist on a chronic low-level for extended periods of time and interfere with normal enjoyment of life; and Bipolar Disorder, in which depression alternates with feelings of elation and increased activity.
There are many symptoms of depression, which may be expressed not only a psychological level, but on a physical and social level as well. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Losing interest in things you previously enjoyed
- Feeling anxious and irritable
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Reduced interest in sex
- Frequent crying
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of inadequacy or self-loathing
- Insomnia or frequent waking (can also sometimes be sleeping excessively)
- Lack of energy
- Decreased appetite and weight (though could sometimes be an increase)
- Aches and pains of unknown origin
- Frequent headaches and/or flu-like symptoms
- Stomach or digestive upset
- Lack of interest in socializing
- Problems with coworkers or boss
- Problems with partner or family members
Feeling sad or depressed is a normal expression in times of increased stress or bereavement and does not require the same treatment. Feelings of stress or sadness after you have lost a job or your relationship has ended is quite normal. However, if these feelings or any of the symptoms listed above persist for two weeks or longer, you may be clinically depressed and should seek help from a mental health professional.
Depression can strike anyone, regardless of their gender, age or socioeconomic status. Women tend to suffer from it more than men (12% and 7%, respectively), and surprisingly, even children are increasingly found to be suffering from depression. A study conducted by Harvard University found the rate of depression among children was increasing by 23% annually, the greatest increase of any age group.
There are a number of effective treatments, and if you suffer from depression you are not alone. A good mental health professional can help you choose the right treatment that can make your depression a thing of the past.