Depression is one of the most common and most serious mental health problems facing people today. While it is only human to experience feelings of sadness, gloominess, or melancholy every now and then, clinical depression occurs when these feelings endure for long periods of time that can last for several weeks to several years if left untreated. Depression can interfere with a person's ability to function effectively throughout the day or even to have the motivation to get out of bed in the morning.
Depression is so common that over 1 in 5 Americans can expect to get some form of depression in their lifetime. Over 1 in 20 Americans have a depressive disorder every year. Women are almost twice as likely as men to experience a depressive episode throughout their lives. Those who seem to be most likely to experience depression are married women, women in poverty, adolescents, and unmarried men. Fortunately, there are many highly effective treatments for depression today that alleviate much of the suffering associated with depressive symptoms.
Today, we are able to treat depression much more effectively because we have a better understanding of the causes of clinical depression. Many people begin to feel depressed as the result of some recent, notable event or events, which occurred in one's life. We also now know that family history and genetics play a part in the greater likelihood of someone becoming depressed in their lifetime. Increased stress and inadequate coping mechanisms to deal with that stress may also contribute to depression. We know that there are biological and psychological components to every depression, it is not a purely biochemical or medical disorder.
When people talk about having depression they are typically referring to what is known as Major Depression. This type of depression is when a person experiences the characteristics of depression with a certain degree of intensity either in a single episode or that keep recurring over time. Another common type of depression is called Dysthymia, which is characterized by chronic, low-grade symptoms. People with Dysthymia go through life almost always feeling mildly depressed, which can greatly impair their ability to enjoy the positives in life.
Less common forms of depression, but still just as disruptive to a person's overall functioning, are the depressions related to Bipolar Disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Bipolar Disorder, or what was commonly known as manic-depression, involves cyclical periods of severe depression with periods of extremely elevated or irritable mood known as mania. This website offers a specific center devoted to Bipolar Disorder if you want to learn more about it.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a popularized name given to describe depression that happens during particular seasons of the year, but it is not an actual DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) diagnosis. The diagnosis a person would receive who experiences depression during the fall or winter months would be Major Depressive Disorder, recurrent, with Seasonal Pattern. To keep it simple we will call this form of depression Seasonal Affective Disorder. This diagnosis involves symptoms of depression that occur during the fall and winter seasons when the days are shorter and there is less exposure to natural sunlight. When the spring and summer seasons begin and there is greater exposure to longer hours of daylight, the symptoms of depression disappear.
We have developed the information here to act as a comprehensive guide to help you better understand depression and find out more information about it on your own.