What is major depression?

Major depressive disorder is a condition which lasts two or more weeks and interferes with a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks and enjoyed activities that previously brought pleasure. This condition affects approximately 16 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older.

What causes major depression?

The exact cause of depression is not known, but leading research in Neuroscience points to an imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters as the manifestation of depression. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that send signals between brain cells. A person’s genetic make-up and life history may also determine a person’s tendency to become depressed.

How prevalent is depression?

In 2016 a study conducted by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality reported that major depressive disorder will affect approximately 16 million American adults (about 6.7% of the US population) in a given year. 

Is depression a serious disease?

Yes.  Serious depression can destroy family life as well as the life of the ill person." A national study of depression found that nearly all the respondents who reported a major depressive disorder also reported that their social and/or work lives were negatively affected by their illness.

 

In 2010, the economic burden of depression was estimated at $210 billion in the US.  Depression was the second leading cause of disability, accounting for almost 20% of all years of life lost to disability and premature death.

 

Depression can also be a lethal disease. Each year in the US, over 30,000 people die by suicide, 60% of whom suffer from depression.

Are some people more likely to become depressed than others?

There are many factors which can predispose certain people towards depression more than others. However, the exact causation between these factors and the occurrence of depression are still being researched and debated. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Suffering from certain medical illnesses such as stroke, heart attack, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and hormonal disorders

  • Hereditary predispositions to depression passed through genes.

  • Experiencing a serious loss, difficult relationship, financial problem, or any stressful change in life pattern.

  • Taking certain medications that may increase vulnerability to depression.

What are the symptoms of depression?

According to the standard diagnosis guide (DSM-V) published by the American Psychiatric Association, depression is diagnosed when an individual is experiencing either a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure plus four or more of the following depression symptoms during the same two-week period:

  • Significant weight loss (when not dieting) or weight gain (a change of more than five percent of body weight in a month)

  • Significant increase or decrease in appetite

  • Excessive sleepiness or insomnia

  • Agitation and restlessness

  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day

  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive and inappropriate guilt nearly every day

  • Diminished ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions

  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

If you feel you are experiencing any of these depression symptoms, contact your doctor and speak with them about your depression treatment options.

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