Posted on October 21, 2020 at 2:11 am

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It Is Depression Awareness Month!

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The first of October marks the start of National Depression Education and Awareness Month each and every year. Though depression affects over 17 million adults, many fail to seek treatment. For some, this is due to a lack of understanding about the disorder and treatment options, but for others, it may be due to the stigma that still pervades issues of mental illness and mental health awareness.

If you struggle with feelings of sadness, hopelessness or loss of interest in normal activities, you’re not alone. Read on to learn more about depression, how it can be treated, and where to go for help.

It Is Depression Awareness Month!
It Is Depression Awareness Month!

Understanding Your Depression

Depression is a common mood disorder that results in persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness, which may interfere with your ability to complete or enjoy normal activities. 

Many who struggle with depression also experience irritability, lack of energy, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating. Data from 2017 shows that over seven percent of the American adult population experienced at least one major depressive episode and, without treatment, these episodes may occur more than once.[1]

Roughly 6.3 million American men have experienced at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime.[2] The following are the most common types of depression in men:

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – This form of depression affects about five percent of the U.S. population and is influenced by the changing of seasons to the colder fall and winter months.[3]
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder – Also known as dysthymic disorder, the symptoms of this form of depression are less severe than major depression but last for two or more years. It affects approximately three percent to five percent of the general US population.[10][11]
  • Psychotic Depression – Up to 25 percent of individuals with depression experience symptoms associated with psychosis, such as delusions or hallucinations.[12]
  • Minor Depression – This disorder exhibits the same characteristics as major depression, but with less severe symptoms over a shorter duration. It affects roughly12 percent to 16 percent of U.S. adults.[6][13]
  • Bipolar Disorder – About 4.4 percent of U.S. adults experience bipolar disorder, a condition that causes dramatic shifts in mood, energy and the ability to function normally.[7]

Though the underlying cause of depression is unknown, certain risk factors like trauma, family history of mental illness and alcohol or substance abuse may increase your risk for developing it.

What Treatment Options Are Available?

The symptoms of depression affect each individual differently. As common as the condition is, however, as many as 35 percent of sufferers never receive treatment.[8] 

Men are statistically less likely to seek treatment for mental health issues than women, and are about 3.7 times more likely to die from suicide.[9]

Because depression symptoms vary, treatment for depression should be customized to treat your needs. Medical experts typically recommend antidepressant medications, psychotherapy or a combination of both for the treatment of depression. 

Other treatment options may include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), but these are normally only considered when other treatment options have failed.

Talk to your primary care physician or complete an online psychiatry evaluation to learn more about the treatment options for depression and to determine which might be the best for you.

Where to Go for Help

Though symptoms of depression may come and go, many people struggle with the condition throughout their lives. Educating yourself about your mental health and becoming attuned to your symptoms and triggers are important steps in managing depression. 

It’s also important to seek support and treatment. If you or a loved one is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide or self-harm, help is just a phone call away.

Even if you simply need someone to talk to, you can call one of the numbers below:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
    • This free hotline is available 24/7 with trained crisis counselors ready and available to provide confidential support to those in need.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
    • The NAMI Helpline is a free service for individuals affected by mental illness seeking information, support, or referrals for treatment.
  • Substance Abuse Month and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
    • This free helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for information and treatment referrals for individuals and families struggling with mental illness and/or substance use disorders.

Your mental health and physical health are equally important pieces of the healthcare puzzle, so don’t ignore the symptoms if you’re experiencing them. 

If you struggle with depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns, know you’re not alone and that treatment is available. 

Take the time to educate yourself, embrace and spread awareness this month so those struggling with mental health issues are better able — and more inclined — to seek and receive the treatment they need.

[1] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml

[2] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml

[3] https://www.mhanational.org/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad 

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3111977/

[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0278584612000243

[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20098526/

[7] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/bipolar-disorder.shtml

[8] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml

[9] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719439/ 

[11] https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/dysthymia

[12] https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.159.11.1855

[13] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/minor-depression

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