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Depression facts

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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.

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artfulfrog said...
May 4, 2008 at 4:37 PM  

It also seems to run in families. And it also seems much more common than it use to be.

Anonymous said...
May 4, 2008 at 7:41 PM  

I'm glad that you said some "die from the disease via suicide". Many don't consider depression to be a deadly disease when I have seen that it can in fact be life-threatening.
Mary Alice

shopinchic said...
May 4, 2008 at 9:26 PM  

The question is:how do you help depressed people without making it worse? How can you make them realize they have a mental illness and that they need help?

RCB said...
May 5, 2008 at 10:36 AM  


I plan on making a post later in the week of links to resources, but here is a link to help you now. Scroll down to the section on "How Family and Friends Can Help the Depressed Person."

Remember that the symptoms of depression, which include feelings of worthlessness, indecisiveness, and lack of motivation, mean that sometimes a depressed person needs outside help to get treatment. You can help by actions such as offering a sympathetic ear, making appointments and transporting the person to and from appointments, and making sure the person is taking medication and/or doing psychotherapy "homework." They may want to talk about what they are going through, but be afraid that "nobody wants to hear it" or that they are just being a burden. They may be profoundly lonely under a surface that seems withdrawn. Getting out and doing things is good for most depressed people, so invite them out. Take seriously all remarks about suicide.

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