Depression is a common but serious medical condition that can cause severe symptoms affecting how you think, feel, and act. The CDC estimates that more than 1 out of 20 Americans 12 years of age and older reported depression symptoms in 2009 – 2012.
Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States.
- Each year about 6.7% of U.S. adults experience major depressive disorder.
- Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime.
Depression has also been associated with several chronic diseases, making it one of the most common complications of chronic illness. People diagnosed with a chronic medical condition (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.) have a higher risk of depression, and it’s also true that people with depression are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and Alzheimer’s among others.
Chronic mental health conditions are becoming increasingly widespread across the U.S. and if not addressed could cost up to $3.5 trillion by 2030 – $3.4 trillion in medical costs and another $140.8 billion in societal costs. Like other chronic illnesses, mental health conditions contribute heavily to productivity losses, but can also worsen unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, and incarceration.
Learn the signs and symptoms of depression and promote the benefits of early identification and intervention. Once diagnosed, a person with depression can be treated in several ways. The most common treatments are medication and psychotherapy.
Signs and Symptoms Include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
To Help a Friend or a Relative
- Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
- Talk to him or her, and listen carefully.
- Never dismiss feelings, but point out realities and offer hope.
- Never ignore comments about suicide, and report them to your loved one’s therapist or doctor.
- Invite your loved one out for walks, outings and other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don’t push him or her to take on too much too soon.
- Provide assistance in getting to the doctor’s appointments.
- Remind your loved one that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.
If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless, and hopeless. It may be extremely difficult to take any action to help yourself. But as you begin to recognize your depression and begin treatment, you will start to feel better.
To Help Yourself, Keep Busy
There is a lot to do in life. There is a lot to do every day! Staying busy can help direct your thoughts away from what may be troubling you. Try to focus on important daily routines:
- Work and hobbies
- Household projects
- Social and family gatherings
- Volunteering in the community
If you get overwhelmed, consider delaying tasks, setting priorities and breaking up projects into manageable bits.
Some people find that regular aerobic exercise improves their symptoms as much as antidepressant medication. Others find that their mood improves by getting out in the sun more often. You might combine the benefits of both by increasing your activity outdoors.
People new to regular exercise should increase their activity level gradually. A good place to start is to add steps to your daily commute, errands, and chores.
Get Enough Sleep
Deep sleep helps the body’s cells grow and repair themselves from such factors as stress. So, getting enough sleep may improve your ability to function while awake. To improve the quality of your sleep, be sure to eat healthy foods, exercise at least moderately on most days, and create a sleep-friendly environment:
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants during the day.
- Block out light and noise.
- Establish a bedtime routine: Go to bed at the same time each night and do something relaxing before getting into bed (take a warm bath, listen to pleasant music).
- Reduce screen time before bed
Talk to a Friend, Have Some Fun
Don’t try and deal with what you are going through alone. Talk to someone on a regular basis. And while you are at it, put some fun into your life!
In case of an emergency, call:
- Your doctor.
- 911 or go to a hospital emergency room to get immediate help or ask a friend or family member to help you do these things.
- The toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.
For more information, call:
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: 800.826.3632
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 800.950.6264
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): 866.615.6464