Watch a movie to better understand depression. (courtesy of www.depression.com)
The American Heritage Dictionary describes depression as being “a psychiatric disorder characterized by an inability to concentrate, insomnia, loss of appetite, anhedonia, feelings of extreme sadness, guilt, helplessness and hopelessness, and thoughts of death.” From time to time, everyone goes through “blue” moods. Feelings of disappointment and grief affect us all. Depression causes people to suffer from these feelings for a prolonged period of time. Because of this, their ability to experience pleasure and maintain an interest in their life is hampered.
Depression is a disease that affects many Americans. It is estimated that 18.8 million Americans (9.5 percent of the U.S. population), over the age of 18, suffer from a depressive disorder. Five percent of the U.S. population, over the age of 18, suffers from a severe depressive disorder.
Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and in many cases there is a reduction in the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain. Factors that increase depression include: physical illnesses, stress, abuse or neglect, a loss of a loved one, cigarette smoking, and learning disorders. This doesn't mean that everyone who loses a loved one or has a learning disorder, suffers from depression. The prior feelings and thoughts that the person has, contribute to whether depression will affect them. Gender also plays an important role in depression. Women have an increased risk of suffering from depression because of hormonal factors. Also, people who are generally pessimistic or have low self-esteem have an increased risk of suffering for depression.
John F. Greden is the Rachel Upjohn Professor of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Michigan. In an interview on the University of Michigan Web site, Greden commented on depression. He said, “The World Health Organization has developed criteria for assessing what they call the global burden of disease. They compared 100 of what they consider to be the world’s most important diseases. Of 100 diseases, depression ranked fourth on one measure used in their report and it is projected to rank higher in the future. It actually ranked first on the second measure, which is years lived with the disability, and first in women. This is true both in developed and developing countries."
Greden also said, "The impact and burden of this disorder are profound. Depression has a lifetime prevalence risk of 15 to 17 percent of the population at large. When we talk about lifetime prevalence, we mean how many people are likely to develop this disorder at some time in their lives. For women, that’s about 21 percent, and for men it’s 12 percent, so there’s almost a two-times greater risk of depression in women."
"There are many illnesses with gender differences in prevalence risk. Depression is especially intriguing because ratios between boys and girls are identical until they reach puberty. Then, the two-to-one gender difference begins to appear and continues throughout life. Depression’s first symptoms often develop during adolescence, with a peak onset of symptoms between ages 15 and 19. The actual diagnosis usually isn’t made until years later, though, and that’s a severe problem. It means the disorder is underway but untreated, and that damage is being done. The Michigan Depression Center aims to help eliminate that problem. Because clinicians aren’t often looking for depression or making the diagnosis in adolescents, families attribute symptoms to adolescent rebellion. ‘Maybe she’s smoking too much marijuana, or it’s the beer-drinking, or hormones.’ All of these turn out often to be depression in disguise. Doctors and parents miss the underlying condition,” said Greden.