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One of the scariest emotional experiences a person can ever suffer during their lifetime is to experience a form of depression. Over one in five Americans can expect to get some form of depression in their lifetime. Over one in twenty Americans have a depressive disorder every year. Depression is one of the most common and most serious mental health problems facing people today. However, depression is often not taken seriously because of the large use of antidepressant drugs and the large number of sufferers. Depression is a serious illness and should be taken as so. Contrary to the popular misconceptions about depression today, it is a serious and deadly disorder.1

Depression in its various forms (insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, stress, vague aches and pains, etc.) is the most common complaint heard in doctors offices. There are three primary forms of depression. Major depression, like the flu, has a beginning, middle, and an end. Major depression often lasts for months. Left untreated, it tends to reoccur. Each reoccurrence tends to last longer and is more debilitating than the one before. Chronic depression is a low grade, long-term depression that can go on for years. Some people have had it most of their lives. Long term, low-grade depression is also known as dysthymia. Dys, meaning disorder, and thymia meaning mood. Dysthmia is then a disorder of ones mood. The last type is manic depression. The lows of this depression can alter with days or weeks of maniaextreme feelings, unreasonable thoughts, and inappropriate, sometimes destructive behavior. The manic-depressive person fluctuates from one emotional pole to another, often in rapid swings. 3

There are many symptoms of depression. Symptoms can include persistent sad or empty mood, loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities, including sex, decreased energy, fatigue, being slowed down , Sleep disturbances such as insomnia, early morning wakes or oversleeping, eating disturbances such as loss of appetite and weight, or weight gain, difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts, irritability, excessive crying, or chronic aches and pains that don t respond to treatment.

Many people who have clinical depression can feel down, sad, disappointed, and upset. However one can feel all of these emotions without being clinically depressed. Pain after a loss, for example, is a natural part of the healing process, not a sign of clinical depression. However if the pain becomes serve and the conditions for an unusual length of time, the loss may have triggered a type of clinical depression that s known as a melancholy depression. In 1917 Sigmund Freud explained melancholy as a response to loss-either real loss or symbolic loss. Freud believed that a person s unconscious anger over loss weakens the ego, resulting in self-hate and self-destructive behavior.

One in twenty Americans currently suffer from a depression severe enough to require medical treatment. Two percent of all children and five percent of all adolescents suffer from depression. More than twice as many women are currently being treated for depression then men. However, it is not known whether this is because women are more likely to be depressed, or whether men tend to deny their depression.1 Depression is the #1 public health problem in the country. Depression is an epidemic and is on the rise.

Some depression comes out of the blue, even when things are going well. Others seem to have an obvious cause: a marital conflict, financial difficulty, or some personal failure. Yet many people with these problems do not come depressed. Most psychologists believe depression results from an interaction between stressful events and a person s biological and psychological vulnerabilities. Depression runs in families. 2 Genes may influence depression by causing abnormal activity in the brain. Studies have shown that certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters play an important role in regulating moods and emotions. Neurotransmitters involved in depression include norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. An imbalance of hormones may also play a role in depression. Many depressed people have higher than normal levels of hydrocortisone, a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland in response to stress. In addition, an underactive or overactive thyroid gland can lead to depression.4

Psychological theories of depression focus on the way people think and behave. Some theories emphasize the role irrational though processes. It states that depresses people tend to view themselves, their environment, and the future in a negative light because of errors in thinking. These errors include focusing on the negative aspects of any situation misinterpreting facts in negative ways, and blaming themselves for any misfortune. In another view it is said that people with depressive personality traits appear to be more vulnerable than others to actual depression. Examples of depressive personality traits include gloominess, pessimism, introversion, self-criticism, deep feelings of inadequacy, and excessive brooding and worrying. People who regularly behave in dependent, hostile, and impulsive ways appear at greater risk for depression. Psychologists also believe that stressful experiences can trigger depression in people who are predisposed to the illness. About 20 percent of women experience an episode of depression after having a baby; this is called postpartum depression. Also, people who experience child abuse appear to be more vulnerable to depression than others.1

Depression affects people all around the world and takes over many lives. It is a detectable disease. Most every case of depression is very personal, and usually has it s own specifications and circumstance. By speaking with people who have depression in their families and being a sufferer of the disease myself, I ve realized that it s not the end of the world and there are ways to get help. Treatment for depression is relativity inexpensive but whatever the cost; it is more than made up for an increased productivity, efficiency, physical health, improved relationships, and enjoyment of life.

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