It is estimated that 1 in 10 people over the age of 18 are depressed, totaling over 15 million people in the U.S. During the course of a person’s lifetime, there is a 17% chance that they will experience a major depressive episode. While these numbers aren’t favorable, treatment of depression is effective for most people, allowing those affected to live a brighter and happier life.
There are three types of depression, including major depression, persistent depressive disorder (PDD), and bipolar disorder.
Major depression is classified as a prolonged sadness of 2 weeks or longer, in which a person can have intense sadness, and/or feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. Many people have feelings of sadness, and it is normal to feel sad or down after a difficult life event. This makes understanding whether someone is depressed or temporarily sad difficult for many people. Generally speaking, a two-week period or longer of severe sadness or having a hard time finding enjoyment in things that once brought them joy and happiness is an indication that someone may be depressed.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) is a form of depression that lasts for at least 2 years. PDD is less severe than major depression, but the symptoms are very similar, if not the same as major depression.
Bipolar disorder is a form of depression, and it is classified as experiencing severe mood swings. A person with bipolar disorder usually is extremely happy one day and then shows symptoms of depression, such as severe sadness.
It can affect people of all ages, genders, and ethnicity.
Numbers collected over a 12-month period in which an individual had a major depressive episode:
White – 7.3%
African American – 4.6%
Hispanic – 5.8%
Asian – 4.0%
Native American or Alaska Native – 8.9%
Under 13 – 2.5%
13-18 – 3.3%
18-25 – 8.7%
26-49 – 7.6%
50+ – 5.1%
Male – 5.1%
Female – 8.1%
(Women are 70% more likely to have a major depressive episode than men during their lifetime.)
While there are many similarities among people affected by depression, there are some significant differences between women and men when it comes to depression. Female-specific depressive conditions include pregnancy and infertility, premenstrual problems, postpartum depression, and menopause.
To complicate matters, women often experience what is called atypical depression. This means that instead of eating and sleeping less, women eat and sleep more.
Men are usually less willing to seek help for depression or admit to being depressed. This is mainly because when a man seeks help for depression, it can be considered as a weakness. When looking for indications or symptoms of depression in men, it is important to know that not all signs and symptoms are the same as common depression symptoms. For example, instead of feeling sad for an extended period of time, men often get angry and irritable for an extended duration. Instead of using friends and food for support, men often turn to TV, alcohol, and sports to self-medicate.
When men and women move into their golden years, they experience many changes that they are often not prepared for. Due to some of these changes, it’s not uncommon for a senior to experience a major depressive episode. Common changes among seniors that can lead to depression include medical problems, retirement, loss of loved ones and friends, and isolation.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of depression in seniors include: social withdrawal, sadness, fatigue, weight loss or loss of appetite, loss of self worth, sleep problems, and suicidal thoughts or attempts.
The teenage years bring a number of changes that teens must cope with and adapt to. These changes can include puberty, social pressures, and trying to find out who they are and where they fit into society. When looking for signs of depression in teens, it’s important to know they also have a unique set of signs and symptoms. Prolonged sadness is common among most people who are depressed.
While sadness is common among adults, teens are more likely to show anger, aggressiveness, and hostility. Teens who are depressed sometimes deal with these pressures by starting to use alcohol and drugs, running away, participating in reckless behavior, and sometimes resorting to violence.
While there may be one event that triggers depression, the illness is usually caused by a combination of environmental, biological, genetic, and psychological factors.
Depressive episodes can be caused by situational events such as a loss of a loved one, relationship problems, divorce, loss of a job, financial trouble, personal trauma, social pressures, and other instances that can affect a person’s overall well-being.
While depression is usually genetic, it can also happen to those who have no family history of depression.
A diagnosis of depression is often treated with a combination of individual therapy and medication. Therapy for depression commonly includes examining choices or events that contribute to the depression and developing positive coping mechanisms.