Thought to be the common cold of mental illness, nearly 17% of adults will be diagnosed with depression during their lifetime. Moreover, women are 70% more likely than men to be diagnosed with depression. Not to be confused with feeling sad, depression is characterized by chronic and severe depression lasting a minimum of two weeks and interfering with the person’s ability to function at home, at school, or at his/her job.
Depression can result in negative feelings, behaviors, thoughts, and physical symptoms. Some symptoms of depression include tearfulness, fatigue, lack of enjoyment in previously pleasurable activities, inability to concentrate, feelings of guilt, irritability, hopelessness, changes in appetite, and difficulty sleeping. Some people may also experience thoughts of suicide. It is important to note that depression is not a sign of weakness. Moreover, people with depression often cannot just “get over” despite being told to do so by people in their lives.
Depression is thought to be caused by both environmental and genetic factors. Individuals raised in pessimistic and discouraging families are prone to depression. Environmental factors such as a chronic illness, school stress, family crisis, financial strain, serious loss, and relationship problems can also contribute to the development of depressive symptoms. There is also compelling evidence suggesting a strong genetic link to depression. Individuals with family members who are depressed are more likely to develop depression themselves. It is important to note, however, that even individuals with no family history of depression may experience depression in their lifetime. Finally, researchers have identified chemical imbalances and different patterns of brain activation in depressed individuals. Taken together, these different causes of depression are linked with personality traits such as low self-esteem, inability to cope with stress, and negative thoughts about the world, the future, and themselves.
Research has demonstrated that Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the most effective treatment of depression because it addresses the negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with depression. When an individual is unable to function due to severe physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms of depression, medication may be necessary to help the person feel ready to make the changes.
Visit NIMH.nih.gov to learn more.