Facts About Depression
Depressive disorder, frequently referred to simply as depression, is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch. It’s a serious mental health condition that requires understanding and medical care. Left untreated, depression can be devastating for those who have it and their families. Fortunately, with early detection, diagnosis and a treatment plan consisting of medication, psychotherapy, and healthy lifestyle choices, many people can and do get better. Some will only experience one depressive episode in a lifetime, but for most, depressive disorder recurs. Without treatment, episodes may last a few months to several years.
More than 17 million U.S. adults—over 7% of the population—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
People of all ages and all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds experience depression, but it does affect some groups more than others.
Combined, depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity each year.
People with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression can present different symptoms, depending on the person. But for most people, depressive disorder changes how they function day-to-day, and typically for more than two weeks. Common symptoms include:
- Changes in sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of energy
- Lack of interest in activities
- Hopelessness or guilty thoughts
- Changes in movement (less activity or agitation)
- Physical aches and pains
- Suicidal thoughts
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Treatment and Care for Those Living with Depression
Leading a balanced lifestyle can help you manage symptoms of depression. Here are some suggestions from people who have lived experience with depression:
- Learn all you can. Learn about the many treatment options available. Connect with other people experiencing depression in support groups or meetings. Attend local conferences and conventions. Build a personal library of useful websites and helpful books.
- Recognize early symptoms. Identify possible warning signs and triggers that may aggravate your depression symptoms. With this knowledge, you can recognize an emerging episode and get the help you need as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for help—they can help you monitor your symptoms and behavior.
- Partner with your health care providers. Give your health care provider all the information he or she needs to help you recover—including any reactions to medications, your symptoms or any triggers you notice. Develop trust and communicate openly.
- Know what to do in a crisis. Be familiar with your community’s crisis hotline or emergency walk-in center. Know how to contact them and keep the information handy.
- Find emotional support from others who experience depression. Share your story, thoughts, fears and questions with other people who have the same condition. Contact your local NAMI California affiliate about taking the NAMI Peer-to-Peer class or NAMI Connection support groups.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. These substances can disturb emotional balance and interact with medications. You may think using alcohol or drugs will help you feel better, but using them can hinder your recovery or make symptoms worse.
- Get physically healthy. Eat well and exercise. To relieve stress, try activities like meditation, yoga or Tai Chi.
Treatments for depression can include:
- Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy and interpersonal therapy.
- Medications, including antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications.
- Exercise to help with prevention and mild-to-moderate symptoms.
- Brain stimulation therapies if psychotherapy and/or medication are not effective. These include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depressive disorder with psychosis or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) for severe depression.
- Light therapy, which uses a lightbox to expose a person to full-spectrum light in an effort to regulate the hormone melatonin.
- Alternative approaches, including acupuncture, meditation, faith, and nutrition can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan.