The beginning of a new work week can cause a case of the blues for many people but according to recent research from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1 in 20 Americans over the age of 12 suffer from a clinical state of depression. 40-59 year old women have the highest rates. Poor people also report depression symptoms more than wealthier Americans. 80% of people with depression report they have some level of functional impairment because of depression and 27% report serious difficulty in work and home life as a result. Only 29% of people with depression seek out mental health professionals. Depression comes in many forms including:
- Major depressive disorder
- Post-partum depression
- Seasonal affective disorder
- Situational depression
- Adjustment disorder
- Bipolar (Manic Depressive) disorder
Depression is a mental state or a chronic mental disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, loneliness, despair, helplessness, low self-esteem and self-reproach. Other signs include psychomotor retardation, agitation, and withdrawal from social contact, insomnia, and decreased appetite. The symptoms can become severe enough to cause self harm or suicide (major depressive disorder). Anyone can be afflicted with depression at any time in their life. The comedian Jim Carey and the talk show host Larry King both reveal that they have fought depression during stages of their careers.
Post partum depression strikes women following the birth of a child. Brooke Shields wrote a book about her experience after the birth of her daughter Rowan called Down Came the Rain. This made a media sensation when fellow actor Tom Cruise criticized her for antidepressant use. This condition can be debilitating in the caring of a new infant and create barriers to the appropriate bonding with the child. Post partum depression looks like major depression except that it occurs right after delivery. This affects 1 woman in every 500 who have given birth. The symptoms can be severe enough to impair normal functioning and put the mother and baby’s life at risk. Treatment should be sought immediately after symptoms arise.
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that appears in winter and resolves in the spring. Patients experience depression and a general lack of energy. Light exposure is felt to be part of the cause and light is used in the treatment. This condition is more common in women. To learn more read the iTriagehealth.com Health Blog.
Situational depression is an episode of acute depression that results from a stressful life event such as a loss of a job, loss of a loved one or natural catastrophe. It is unclear why some people are affected and others are not. The symptoms can last for days or years. Adjustment disorder is an inability to adjust to the normal stressors of life resulting in significant emotional or behavioral symptoms and impairment of function in daily life.
A close condition to depression is bi-polar disorder or manic depression. People with bi-polar disorder experience the same symptoms as people with depression, but they will also experience manic highs or hyper manic episodes. This condition is characterized by mood instability and can be serious and disabling. Mania reveals itself in excessive excitability, reckless behavior, impulsive actions, excessive energy, restlessness and inability to sleep.
It is important for health care professionals to make the diagnostic distinction between straight depression and bi-polar disorder to ensure that patients receive the appropriate treatment as soon as possible. Patients need to help their therapists identify whether they are suffering from only depressive symptoms or if they have components of bi-polar disorder as well. A good professional will ask a patient if they are experiencing the opposite feelings of depression as well as depressive symptoms. Sometimes family members will supply important information by noticing excessive energy, reckless behavior or grandiose actions. The award-winning actress Glenn Close speaks out passionately about bipolar disorder because it has struck very close to home with her sister Jessie Close (view below). Because of her first hand experience with the cultural stigma against mental illness, Ms. Close has started a national anti-stigma campaign to change the publics perception of mental illness called Bring Change 2 mind.
The very nature of depression can prevent a person from seeking help. Denial is one reason people with depression do not receive treatment. Others do not seek treatment because they do not believe that they can be helped. There is still a stigma in our society surrounding mental illness and insurance coverage is spotty and this will prevent others from seeking care. The good news is that depression is a treatable condition. With appropriate treatment patients can return to their normal level of functioning.
The most affective way to help a depressed person is to assist them to seek treatment. This might involve helping make an appointment and going to the appointment with a qualified health care or mental health professional. This might also involve giving emotional support and encouraging the patient to stick with prescribed treatment until the symptoms begin to abate. Antidepressants and psychotherapy are the mainstays of treatment. Mental health professionals to seek out for treatment are psychiatrists and psychologists. Psychiatric hospitalizations may be needed for severe symptoms and for suicidal ideations.
Depression is not just an emotional state but a medical condition that needs appropriate treatment. When your feelings move beyond a case of the Monday morning blues, it is time to seek appropriate care.