Depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is a common but serious mood disorder that affects how you feel, think, and handle daily activities. According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression worldwide. It’s more than just feeling sad or experiencing a temporary low mood – depression is a persistent problem, not a passing one. It can cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Depression comes in various forms, including Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymia), Postpartum Depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Major Depressive Disorder is characterized by episodes of severe depression, while Persistent Depressive Disorder involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable but prevent one from functioning at “full steam” or from feeling good. Postpartum Depression is much more severe than the “baby blues” (relatively mild depressive and anxiety symptoms that typically clear within two weeks after delivery) that many women experience after giving birth. Seasonal Affective Disorder is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight.
Depression symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include feelings of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, changes in appetite, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of energy, increased fatigue, feeling worthless or guilty, difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions, and thoughts of death or suicide. Not everyone who is depressed experiences all these symptoms. Some people may only experience a few, while others may experience many. Regardless, if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it’s crucial to seek professional help.
Depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. It can affect anyone at any age, but it’s more common in people who have a family history of depression or other mood disorders. Certain life events or situations, such as trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, early childhood adversity, or high stress, can trigger an episode of depression. Other risk factors include certain medical conditions (e.g., chronic illness, insomnia) or medications, substance abuse, and certain personality traits, such as low self-esteem or being overly dependent.
Diagnosing depression involves a comprehensive assessment and evaluation by a healthcare provider. This typically includes a physical examination, personal interview, and sometimes, specific diagnostic tests. The provider will ask about your symptoms, their duration and severity, and whether you’ve had similar episodes in the past. They’ll also ask about your personal and family history of mental health disorders. To be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must be present most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks, and they must cause significant distress or impairment in daily life.
If you’re struggling with depression, know that effective treatment is available, and recovery is entirely possible. In Atlanta, various mental health facilities provide evidence-based treatments for depression, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and medication management. These treatments aim to reduce symptoms, prevent recurrence of depressive episodes, and improve overall quality of life. Don’t wait to seek help – reach out to a healthcare provider in Atlanta today to start your journey toward recovery.