According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5), depression affects approximately 7% of the American population.
In addition, it affects people differently depending on factors such as age. For example, 18–29-year-old people are nearly 3 times more likely to experience depression than people over the age of 60. The likelihood of developing depression peaks in an individual’s 20s but development later in life is not uncommon.
What is Depression?
Depressive disorders can manifest in many ways. While major depression may be the first thought to come to mind when thinking about depressive disorders, it also includes:
- Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
- Persistent depressive disorder
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- Substance-induced depressive disorder
- Depressive disorder due to another medical condition
- Unspecified depressive disorder
Depressive disorders have a few factors in common, including persistent feelings of sadness, irritability, and loss of normal function. What often differs between these disorders is the length, severity, and cause of the illness.
In general, depressive disorders negatively affect an individual’s mental, physical, and emotional health. Family, friend, and work relationships can also be put under significant stress when a person is suffering from a depressive disorder. Trying to cope with the mental and physical symptoms of depression as well as the side effects it can have on a person’s life can leave one feeling helpless and alone.
What are Common Symptoms?
While symptoms may change depending on the person and the severity of the illness, commonly experienced symptoms include
- Depressed mood
- Loss of interest
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Loss of energy or fatigue
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- Decreased ability to think clearly
- Thoughts of death or suicide
What Causes Depression?
It is impossible to pinpoint one specific cause of depression because it is a complex illness. However, research has found that there are certain risk factors that make a person more likely to develop depression. These risk factors include:
- Negative affectivity
- People who are typically in a negative mood are more likely to develop depression when facing stressful life experiences
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Stressful life events
- People with a family history of depression are 2-4 times more likely to develop depression
- Presence of other mental health and medical disorders
How is it Treated?
Treatment is possible.
Many people with depression benefit from both medication assisted treatment and therapeutic services. Some of the most used effective therapy styles include cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to replace harmful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with more positive ones to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, focuses primarily on personal interactions between a patient and their psychologist for healing and coping purposes.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.b