Depression and Other Medical Illnesses
Dr. David Prescott, Ph.D.
National Depression Screening Day is Oct. 6, 2005. Throughout the country, hospitals, counseling centers, and mental health clinics will be providing free information and screening about major depression and other mood disorders. National Depression Screening Day provides an important opportunity to publicize what we have learned about major depression, the treatment that is available, and the questions that still need to be answered.
Far from being “just a case of the blues, Major Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and established market economies worldwide. Almost 10 million Americans per year experience an episode of major depression. About 1 in 5 Americans will experience a depressive disorder in their lifetime.
Over the past decade, researchers have paid particular attention to the relationship of depression to other major illnesses and health problems. The statistics are revealing:
• Cardiac Illness: While 1 in 5 people in general experience major depression, this figure climbs to 1 in 2 for people with diagnosed heart disease.
• Cancer: Estimates are that 1 in 4 people diagnosed with cancer will experience clinical depression.
• Diabetes: Recent research suggests that being diagnosed with diabetes doubles your risk of being diagnosed with depression, and that the more severe the diabetes, the greater the likelihood of depression.
• Obesity: Researchers estimate that obesity in women may increase risk for depression by as much as 37 percent. There is also a documented association between obesity and thoughts of suicide.
• Post Partum Depression: Approximately one in eight women experience post partum depression. For women with a previous history of depression, the risk increases to one in four.
If you think you may be experiencing a depressive disorder, talk to your doctor, a psychologist, or other mental health professional. Symptoms of depression include at least two consecutive weeks of feeling sad most days, lack of energy and motivation, difficulty with sleep, poor concentration, and preoccupation with suicide or death. Depression often becomes more severe if left untreated so it is important to find out quickly if treatment will help.
The good news is that treatment for depression, which includes counseling and/ or medication, is usually quite effective. For depression that co-exists with other medical problems there is evidence that positive moods may help certain disease conditions. For example, happy people have higher levels of fibrinogen and cortisol in their blood, which decreases vulnerability to cardiovascular disease. Less depression typically means more energy and motivation. This can help you follow through on exercise plans, health changes in diet, and getting support from friends and family.