This is National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week, sponsored by Freedom From Fear, an American mental illness advocacy group. All this week, I will be posting about depression.
Facts about depression:
- Depression is an illness that affects one's body, mood, and thinking. It typically has real physical symptoms in addition to emotional and cognitive symptoms.
- It is not the same as a "blue mood" and you can't just "snap out of it." It's not an attitude problem, a sign of weakness, or a result of self-absorption.
- Women are twice as likely to be affected as men, and the overall prevalence in the United States is about 6-7%. That translates to some 20 million Americans experiencing some form of depression in any given year.
- Depression appears in several forms. Major depression is profoundly disabling, with symptoms lasting at least two weeks. Dysthymia is less severe but lasts for years, and may be more resistant to treatment. Bipolar disorders, also called manic-depressive illness, are characterized by fluctuations between depression and extremely high mood (mania and hypomania), and require very different treatment from so-called "unipolar" depressions (major depression and dysthymia).
- Depression very frequently occurs along with other illnesses and disorders, ranging from chronic medical conditions such as HIV and diabetes, to substance abuse and other mental health disorders.
- Depression can affect people in all age groups, including young children and the elderly.
- Up to 15% of depressed people die of the disease via suicide. In addition, people suffering from depression are at higher risk of other medical illnesses.
- Depression is one of the most treatable mental disorders. Most people can be helped by either psychotherapy or medication, or a combination of both.