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How common is depression?

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, and it is estimated that between 5 and 15 percent of Americans suffer from Major Depression at any given time.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Depressive symptoms often affect thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and the severity may range from mild to severe. The symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Low self-esteem/ negative view of self/ self-dissatisfaction
  • Changes in sleeping patterns/ sleeping too much, or not enough
  • Changes in eating patterns/ decreased (sometimes increased) appetite, weight loss or gain
  • Pessimism
  • Sense of failure
  • Poor attention and concentration
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty completing responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • Slowed thoughts and movements/ loss of energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts or plans
  • There are some individuals who experience “agitated” depression, and the symptoms may appear slightly different. These individuals often appear anxious or tense, rather than withdrawn. Those with “agitated” depression often appear angry, resentful, and may have difficulty expressing feelings of sadness.

What Causes Depression?

Research indicates that there is some genetic basis for depression, and depression is more common among first-degree relatives of depressed individuals. Research also suggests that depression is the result of low levels of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that effect behavior, mood, and feelings.

How is Depression Treated?

Treatment for depression may include therapy, antidepressant medication, or a combination of therapy and medication. There is evidence that therapy is at least as effective, if not more effective than using medication alone to treat depression. Research indicates that the relapse rates for therapy clients are much lower than for individuals on medication alone. Recent guidelines regarding treatment have suggested a combined approach (medication and therapy) for individuals who have a history of partial response to one method of treatment, those who have a poor history of medication compliance, and those who have a significant history of interpersonal problems.

Recommended Books & Websites For Coping With Depression

The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, M.D. (1990)

What To Say When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter