What is a depressive disorder /
Clinical depression is one of the most
common mental illnesses, affecting more than 19 million Americans each year.
Depression causes people to lose pleasure from daily life, can complicate other
medical conditions, and can even be serious enough to lead to suicide.
Depressive disorders include major
depressive disorder, manic depression and dysthymia (a milder, longer-lasting
form of depression.)
People with depressive illnesses do not
all experience the same symptoms. Signs and symptoms include:
anxious, or "empty" feelings
hopelessness or pessimism
Feelings of guilt,
worthlessness, or helplessness
Loss of interest in
activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
Fatigue and decreased
concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
Thoughts of suicide, suicide
Aches or pains,
headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
What things put a person at higher risk of experiencing a depressive
can occur for anyone, at any age, and to people of any race or ethnic
group. Depression is never a "normal" part of life, no matter
what your age, gender or health situation.
Depression is never a "normal"
part of life, no matter what your age, gender or health situation.
Many things can contribute to clinical
depression. Oftentimes, people become depressed for no apparent reason.
Biological - People
with depression typically have too little or too much of certain brain
chemicals, called "neurotransmitters." Changes in these brain
chemicals may cause or contribute to clinical depression.\
Cognitive - People
with negative thinking patterns and low self-esteem are more likely to develop
Gender - Women
experience clinical depression at a rate that is nearly twice that of men.
Other reasons may include the stress caused by the multiple responsibilities
that women have.
Clinical depression is more likely to occur along with certain illnesses, such
as heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and
Medications - Side
effects of some medications can bring about depression.
Genetic - A family
history of clinical depression increases the risk for developing the illness.
Difficult life events, including divorce, financial problems or the death of a
loved one can contribute to clinical depression.
The rates of depressive disorders may
also be influenced by childhood adversity including severe physical abuse,
sexual abuse, and poor care.
a depressive disorder be treated? How?
diagnosed, a person with depression can be treated in several ways. The most
The choice of treatment depends on the
pattern, severity, persistence of depressive symptoms and the history of the
illness. Depression should be treated by a physician or qualified mental health
Physical exercise and mindfulness or
meditation exercises have also been shown to be effective adjunct therapies.
does depression progress?
New symptoms of major depressive
disorder develop over several days to several weeks. Over a lifetime, the
presence of one episode of major depressive disorder is associated with a 50%
chance of a recurrent episode. A history of two episodes is associated with a
70-80% chance of a recurrent episode, and 3 or more episode are associated with
extremely high rates of recurrence.
people with depressive disorders get better?
of symptoms and return to previous levels of functioning (social, occupational,
and interpersonal) characterize approximately 66 - 70% of individuals.
Unfortunately, although almost 70% of
individuals with depression have a full remission of the disorder with
effective treatment, fewer than half of those suffering from this illness seek
treatment. Too many people resist treatment because they believe depression
isn't serious, that they can treat it themselves or that it is a personal
weakness rather than a serious medical illness.
Be aware that studies have indicated
that active substance or alcohol abuse are associated with poorer outcomes and
likelihood of recurring episodes of depression.
Sources and Links
· The United States National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) mission is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and alternative medicine interventions and their roles in improving health and health care. They do that by advancing the science and practice of symptom management; developing effective, practical, personalized strategies for promoting health and well-being; and enabling better evidence-based decision making regarding CAM use and its integration into health care and health promotion. Information available there about complementary and alternative treatments for depression, for example, can be found at http://nccam.nih.gov/health/depression.htm.