All About Depression
Depression (referred to as major depressive disorder in the DSM-5) is a common mood disorder that can have a serious impact upon the way you think, feel, eat, sleep, manage your life, and handle stress. Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year. And one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression can occur at any time during the lifespan, although on average it most frequently appears first during adolescence to the mid-20’s. In addition, women are more likely to experience depression then men, and some studies show that one-third of women will experience depression at some time during their life.
Symptoms of depression, or major depressive disorder, can range from mild to severe. The following are symptoms that are characteristic of depression:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite; weight loss or weight gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty; feeling helpless and/or hopeless
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
If you experience depression, I recommend that you seek help sooner than later. From my experience as a therapist, there is a difference in treating someone who has experienced their first depressive episode in comparison to someone who has experienced depression for many years. Both presentations can be treated effectively in therapy, although I have noticed that untreated depression that has occurred over the course of numerous years tends to take longer to address in treatment in comparison to someone who has just experienced their first depressive episode (note-this is my opinion, I am not citing clinical research). Moreover, I think of untreated depression in the same way as any other untreated medical condition. The condition tends to become worse without treatment.
Depression is generally treated by psychotherapy or medication, or a combination of the two. Some research has shown that psychotherapy can be more effective than medication alone, although other research has shown that the combination of medication and psychotherapy is more effective than either treatment alone. Thus, I would recommend that you consult with your therapist or medical doctor to determine the best course of treatment for you. I also recommend that you visit your primary care physician to do lab work to determine if a medical condition is causing symptoms of depression (e.g. depressive symptoms can be caused by an underactive thyroid). In addition, if you are experiencing moderate to severe depression, I would recommend that you seek out treatment today. If you notice you are struggling to function, or you have thoughts of death or suicide, these are signs that you need to seek out treatment right away.