Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. There are also those dreaded "winter blues". But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days, usually with no problems or persistent symptoms. Some may even call this being "depressed," but clinical depression is something different.
When an individual has clinical depression, there are physical changes that happen within the brain which reflect in attitudes, mood, symptoms, and actions.
Depression is a common but serious mental disorder that affects over 20 million people in the United States, many of which will never seek diagnosis or treatment. Patients present with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, decreased energy, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, abnormal patterns of sleep or appetite, gruesome nightmares, and poor concentration. Moreover, depression may often come with symptoms of anxiety and varying complex presentations of bipolar disorder.
These problems can become chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual’s ability to take care of his or her everyday responsibilities. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Clinical Depression interferes with daily life and causes pain for the individual and the loved ones in his/her life. Patients with major depressive disorder often have difficulty maintaining a job; and therefore, rely on disability or family for financial support. Depression is currently the #3 cause of disability.
Many people afflicted with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) never seek treatment. This is especially true for males. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that ”fewer than 25% of male sufferers worldwide will seek treatment because of the social stigmas associated with mental disorders including depression.”
With proper and timely treatment, even those with the most severe depression can get better. Medications, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) are the most common methods to treat depression. As patients move from one medication to the next level medication, as well as augmentation medication, the annual cost for medication can be staggering, not to mention the common, insidious, and problematic systemic side effects of both drug therapy and ECT.
The main objective of all treatments for MDD is to attain remission, but in many cases just reducing the symptoms of MDD and reducing the amount and types of medication used is enough to bring the patient back to a productive life and enhance relationships with their families and loved ones.
Next: Symptoms of depression