Are You Depressed and Don't Know It?
What illness is predicted to become the second most common health problem in the world by the year 2020? Depression. According to a fact sheet from PBS (which can be found at www.pbs.org/wgbh/takeonestep/depression/pdf/dep-facts.pdf), about 15 million American adults, or about 8% of the adult population, will experience depression in a given year. About 80% of people with depression are not currently being treated, although 80-90% of people who obtain treatment find relief.
If depression is so treatable, why do so few people seek treatment? There are a number of possible reasons. Some people believe that depression is a weakness or a moral failing rather than the legitimate medical illness that it is. Many people with depression think that they're just unhappy, so they believe that they should just be able to get over it without help. When a person is depressed, everything can feel like an effort, and the idea of seeking help can seem overwhelming. People with depression tend to feel hopeless, too, so they may believe that treatment cannot help them.
How can you tell
if you're depressed?
Symptoms of depression include
loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
significant changes in weight or appetite
sleeping too little or too much
restlessness or feeling slowed down
fatigue or loss of energy
feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
recurrent thoughts of death, or suicidal thoughts*
Not everyone who is depressed experiences all of these symptoms, and people experience them to varying degrees.
Some people have a long-term, less severe form of depression called dysthymic disorder or dysthymia. Because dysthymic disorder is a low-grade form of depression, it can easily go undiagnosed. People with dysthymic disorder may be seen as “Eeyore types,” never really happy. They may believe that this is their personality; they've always been this way and always will. In that case, there's no point in trying to change, right?
Wrong! Although the symptoms of dysthymic disorder are less dramatic than those of major depression, they should not be minimized or ignored. People with dysthymic disorder are just as deserving of treatment as are people with major depression. Dysthymic disorder does respond to the same treatments that are used for major depression, namely talk therapy and, when appropriate, medication.
So, if you've been unhappy for a long time and think there's nothing that can be done about it, think again. You can lead a happier life!
*If you or someone you know is in danger of self-harm (including suicide), call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.