Thursday, October 8, 2009

Understanding Depression

Depression is one of those words that’s floated around a lot in general conversation. I’ve even been guilty of using it out of context (i.e. "I’m so depressed, it’s raining out so now I can’t take my dog to the park"). I can’t help but wonder if this is at least part of the reason why clinical depression is not taken seriously in our society. And yes, I did just call it a condition, because it is!

I think people forget that this is a very real medical condition that is caused by physiological changes in the body. That is, it’s caused by a change in the release of chemicals in the brain (called neurotransmitters) that regulate the nervous system. This results in changes in brain activity, and that translates to altered behaviors and emotional states. This chemical imbalance is generally caused by a change in either the internal or external environment, or maybe both. This is why there are so many different types of depression.

For example, postpartum depression occurs in women who have just recently given birth. This is thought to be due to a combination of hormonal changes occurring in the body, as well as the new (and often overwhelming) responsibilities of being a mom. The three most commonly diagnosed depressions are manic depression, major depression, and dysthmia, but there are others as well.

Depression can affect all ages (from childhood to seniors), genders, and races. What’s amazing to me is that even though this is an entirely manageable condition (there are many known medications that can ease the symptoms associated with depression), many people do not get screened. This is a debilitating disorder, and untreated it can and does lead to suicide. If you think that you or a loved one is suffering from depression, there are a host of websites that can get you more information, or talk to your physician and ask to be screened. This disorder is real, it’s dangerous, and it’s treatable.

We need more research into and more awareness of the medical causes and treatments for depression. Think about it…
  • An estimated 6 million men are thought to have depression in the U.S., but many go undiagnosed because they can’t or don’t want to recognize the symptoms.
  • Women aged 18-45 comprise the largest proportion of people experiencing depression
  • Depression affects more than 6.5 million of the 35 million seniors (65+) in the U.S.
  • 1 of 4 adults will experience a depressive episode by the time they are 24 years old
  • Depression, if left untreated can lead to suicide. An assessment from the American Health College Association found that 9.4% of students (of 23, 863 participants) reported seriously considering attempted suicide at least once in a 12 month period.
For more information on depression, its symptoms, and how to get help, refer to the following websites or talk to your doctor:

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