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. People of all ages and all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds experience depression, but it does affect some groups more than others.
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
Treatment and Support for Those Living with Depression and Their Families
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 light box 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.
We also recommend our NAMI support groups and classes for those living with mental health conditions, as well as their families and loved ones; find a local support group run by a California affiliate.
“Depression is an Illness, Not a Weakness” (NAMI National blog)
“Living with Depression: How to Keep Working” (NAMI National blog)
Stories and posts about living with and impacted by depression coming soon. Telling personal stories of recovery can be one of the most effective ways to diminish stigma and help individuals and families who are facing challenges related to mental health conditions. Submit your story for consideration.