Depression

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in any given 1-year period, 9.5 percent of the population, or about 18.8 million American adults, suffer from a depressive illness. Unfortunately, many people do not recognize that depression is a treatable illness.

A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a "passing blue mood." It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better.

Types of Depressive Disorders

Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once but more commonly occurs several times in a lifetime.

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent stomach problems or headaches that don't respond to treatment

A milder type of depression, dysthymia, involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning well or from feeling good.

Another type of depression is bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness. Not nearly as common as other forms of depressive disorders, bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression).

Treatment

Treatment choice will depend on the outcome of thorough evaluations by a mental health professional and a medical doctor. There are a variety of antidepressant medications and psychotherapies that can be used to treat depressive disorders. Some people with milder forms may do well with psychotherapy alone. People with moderate to severe depression most often benefit from antidepressants. Most do best with combined treatment: medication to gain relatively quick symptom relief and psychotherapy to learn more effective ways to deal with life's problems, including depression.

This information was taken from the National Institute of Mental Health's website.

If you would like to schedule a free evaluation with an EAP counselor, call Employee Resource Systems, Inc. at (800) 292-2780.