Depression is more than just feeling sad or down. Depressive disorder is a real mental health condition that can happen to anyone.
Twenty-five million individuals in the U.S. have major depression, and it’s the leading cause of disability. It’s very likely you or someone you know have been affected by depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), in the United States each year:
- 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness.
- 1 in 20 adults experiences serious mental illness.
- 1 in 6 youth (6–17 years) experiences a mental health disorder.
- 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14—75% by age 24.
A variety of events can cause depression—trauma, genetics, life events, changes or injury to the brain’s frontal lobe, medical conditions, or abusing drugs and alcohol. Depression can also occur on its own without any of these factors.
Those living with depression experience a variety of symptoms, including:
- Changes in sleep or appetite
- Inability to concentrate or low energy
- Disinterest in activities
- Feeling hopeless or guilty
- Becoming either less active or more agitated
- Suicidal thoughts
Without treatment, symptoms can increase. The key is being evaluated by a mental health professional to eliminate medical or other causes, then finding the treatment plan that fits your condition. Generally, someone must have an occurrence of depression for more than two weeks to be diagnosed. Various treatment options include:
- Cognitive therapy—helps to change persistent negative thoughts affecting mood
- Family-focused therapy—including the family helps to relieve stresses on both the individual and their family members
- Interpersonal therapy—focuses on personal relationships that are affected by depression
- Medications—antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics
- Exercise—helps with mild-to-moderate symptoms
- Brain stimulation therapies—if psychotherapy or medication are not sufficient
- Light therapy—increases exposure to full-spectrum light
- Nutrition—studies show foods can influence mental health
- Other—acupuncture, meditation, faith
Education, information, and support programs are also available to provide assistance and face-to-face support for those with depression. If you feel that you or a loved one are experiencing depression, talk to your family medicine provider. If it is an emergency situation, call 9-1-1 for a local dispatcher. Or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 9-8-8.
Visit nami.org for more information or resources on depression or other mental health conditions.