We’ve all seen the face of depression on others and perhaps on ourselves. We’ve seen it on a troubled teenager or a mother immediately after the birth of her child. We’ve seen it on every race, profession, religion and socioeconomic group. We’ve seen it on senior citizens and people with critical illness. We’ve seen it on ourselves as we grieve the loss of another. We’ve even seen depression on the faces of our beloved pets when they too become sick or have lost a friend. Depression is common; but common does not make depression any less serious.
An estimated 350 million people around the world suffer from depression. Here in the U.S. 6.8 million, or 3.1% of the population, suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and about half of those are also diagnosed with depression. Major depressive disorder is the highest cause of disability in the U.S. affecting 15 million or 6.7% of the U.S. population ages fifteen to forty-four. Persistent depressive disorder (previously referred to as dysthymia) affects 3.3 million people or about 1.5% of the population. (Major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder are the two main categories of depression according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. There are other lesser conditions including catatonic depression, seasonal affective disorder, atypical depression, melancholic depression, manic depression and holiday depression.)
Men suffer less from depression than women and it is thought that hormonal and biological factors cause the gender difference. Women typically feel sad and guilty. Nonetheless, men do suffer from depression and exhibit symptoms of anger and irritability. Bouts of male depression often lead to abuse of drugs and alcohol as self-medication and men are less apt to seek professional help for depression than women. Because senior citizens may experience failing physical health, their symptoms of mental health decline, including depression, may be subtle and difficult to distinguish from normal aging. Teenagers may manifest their depression through misguided behavior at school, eating disorders or drug and alcohol abuse. There are probably as many faces of depression as there are people suffering from depression.
Of course it is part of the human experience to feel sad when we’re sick or grieving. It’s not unusual to feel down when we’ve suffered a setback such as losing a job. And most of us have felt deep emptiness after we have experienced the end of an important relationship. Sad emotions from these hard hitting events are expected as part of the rhythm of life. However, what are we to think if the sad emotions persist? How are we to react if the emotions come and go without cause? Are we to think that we have a mental disorder or are simply not coping with life’s difficulties? Perhaps there is not as much difference between the two as we might think.
Each individual is different and each approach to curing depression must be designed for that individual. Yes, depression is a significant health concern here in the U.S. but it is treatable, and it has been proven time and time again to be curable. If you believe you suffer from depression, a professional certified therapist can work with you to develop an integrated treatment plan and point you to a life filled with more happiness and joy.