Major Depression – Still a Silent Epidemic
David Prescott, Ph.D.
Public awareness of Major Depression as a significant worldwide health problem has increased over the last decade. However, depression does not just impact your emotional well being. Research increasingly suggests that the impact of depression is far greater than once thought. Worldwide, depression appears to account for a greater proportion of disability than many major health conditions. And, in spite of advances of treatment, most people who struggle with depression and other mental illnesses are untreated or undertreated.
Symptoms of Major Depression: Major depression, or clinical depression, is more than simply feeling down for a day or two. Diagnostic symptoms include
Persistent sad or irritable mood for two or more consecutive weeks
Decrease in energy and motivation
Feeling hopeless or excessively guilty
Loss of appetite
Poor Memory or Concentration
Preoccupation with Death or Suicide
Lack of enjoyment in activities
Depression Worsens Your Physical Health: Not only does depression impact your emotional well being, but studies by the World Health Organization suggest that people with major depression have poorer physical health than people with other major illnesses. Findings from this 2007 study of nearly 250,000 adults include:
While depression is less prevalent worldwide than heart disease, arthritis, and asthma, depression accounts for more disability ( 12%) than any of these other health problems
People with depression have poorer overall physical health than people with diabetes, angina, or arthritis.
Depression Continues to be Untreated or Undertreated: Even in countries like the United States where medical care is widely available, depression and other mental illnesses are vastly undertreated. Estimates are that up to 31% of the U.S. population is impacted by mental illness or substance abuse each year, but only about one-third of these people receive adequate treatment. In underdeveloped countries, rates of treatment can be as low as 2% of the population. This compares, for example, with diabetes where over 90% of patients receive care.
What if You or Someone You Know is Reluctant to Get Help? Encouraging people to get help for depression may take time and patience. The following tips may help: Treatment for Depression Improves your Physical and Emotional Well-Being: For some people, realizing that depression is associated with poorer physical health may encourage them to seek treatment. Benefits of treatment include more energy and better sleep.
Medication Isn’t the Only Treatment: Most major studies show that both counseling and medications have significant benefit in treating depression. There are good options of many types available if you are struggling with depression.
Treatment isn’t forever: Unlike many physical health problems, treatment for depression doesn’t usually go on for the rest of your life. Many people are able to go to counseling or stay on medication for a few months, then gradually taper off.