Important Facts About Depression

Today I want to share some information about depression with you. I’ll start with some basic facts, like the actual title of depression: Major Depressive Disorder (abbreviated MDD).
People typically think of depression as extreme sadness. While sadness is one symptom of depression, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of symptoms that often get overlooked, like:

  • changes in appetite (eating everything or eating nothing)
  • changes in sleep (sleeping a lot more or less)
  • irritability
  • lack of motivation
  • getting easily tired (fatigue)
  • loss of interest or pleasure
  • guilt
  • feeling worthlessness
  • tearfulness
  • poor concentration
  • difficulty thinking clearly
  • slowed reactions
  • shaking or trembling
  • lack of emotion
  • thoughts of death or suicide

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, please contact your local emergency service providers, 911, or call a national hotline such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

Most people I’ve worked with who have depression describe it as feeling empty, chronically bored, or just “blah.”
Depression Expectations vs. Experience
 

Cause

Another thing to know about depression is that it comes on without reason. You could have these symptoms for a variety of reasons, like the death of a family member or friend, and still not be diagnosed with MDD.But if you get about half of these symptoms and can’t really figure out why, you might have MDD. Please consult a medical and/or psychiatric professional if you think that you may have MDD.
 

Time

People with MDD aren’t depressed 100% of the time. A period of depression (depressive episode) is typically 2 weeks or more, but eventually goes away. It’s not very predictable. And it isn’t a matter of willpower. I can promise you that if they could, just about everyone with depression would stop being depressed immediately.
 

Medication

Medication isn’t the only way to manage symptoms. Medication is typically a really important component of the treatment and recovery process, but it isn’t the only thing you can do. Therapy can be really helpful for some people struggling with depression. A nutritious diet and regular exercise can also help a great deal with depressive symptoms. Having a strong support system is also really important to recovery. Using all of these together can be really beneficial to your recovery.
 

Fun Fact: Research shows having three close friends makes a giant difference in mental health recovery. Having more friends doesn’t really change the impact, but having fewer than three close friends shows a negative impact on your recovery.

 
The best description I’ve found for the depressed experience is in two of Allie’s posts. You can read them here and here (or click the pictures).

Hyperbole and A Half Depression 2

Hyperbole and A Half Depression 2

 

PDD

On top of MDD, there’s also Persistent Depressive Disorder (abbreviated PDD), previously called Dysthymia. Not a lot of people I have talked to have heard of PDD. If you think about depression as feeling really crappy for a while, PDD is feeling kind of crappy for a really long time (at least 2 years).
 
With PDD, you have symptoms more often than you don’t have symptoms. And you’ve never not had symptoms for more than two months. The symptoms for PDD are almost exactly the same as MDD, except thoughts of death or suicide are not included. Crummy, right?
 
So now that I’ve thrown a bunch of symptoms, big words, and counseling jargon at you, here’s a list of what you need to know about depression:

  1. 25% of young adults (ages 18-24) will have a depressive episode.
  2. Women are 2 times more likely to be diagnosed with MDD than men.
  3. ~8% of adolescents have depressive episodes at any given time.
  4. ~7% of the adult U.S. population has had a depressive episode in the last year.
  5. ~1.5% (4.8 million) of the adult U.S. population struggles with PDD.
  6. In 2013, over 41,000 people committed suicide.
  7. In 2013, 1.3 million adults attempted suicide.
  8. Untreated mental health disorders can result in substance abuse.
  9. Depression is complex and has no one single cause that has been pinpointed.
  10. Continued exposure to violence, neglect, abuse, poverty, discrimination, or negative social pressures can make you more vulnerable to depression.

Things to Know About Depression

Where did you learn about depression? How accurate was it?

2 thoughts on “Important Facts About Depression

  1. This is a very factual and helpful compilation of information. When I’ve revealed to friends my struggles with depression, they are almost always surprised because I’m a very optimistic, upbeat person. I’m always smiling and I get really excited about the things I love.
    What they fail to notice is the excessive amount of time I spend in my room, my strong desire to sleep as soon as I get off work, and my many tearful episodes over incidents I would normally handle well.
    Even people that should know more about depression (like nurses) tend to misunderstand it if they don’t have a close friend or family member who suffers from it.

    1. Ivanna, I know exactly what you mean. Depression can be masked, though that’s much more exhausting. And I think it is so unfair that people cannot be their authentic selves for fear of being misunderstood or making people uncomfortable. I’ve encountered many people, professionals included, that lack a working knowledge of what mental illness is and how to respond appropriately.
      I see so many people that come in to see me with a diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder and they tell me they either don’t really know what their symptoms are or they don’t report their symptoms accurately because of how others will react.
      Thank you for taking the time to stop by and share a piece of your story. Keep up the good fight.

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