About Depression

Major depression is a serious medical illness that affects approximately 16.1 million Americans. Depression can cause ongoing sadness that changes how a person thinks, feels, and acts every day. While medication can help manage symptoms for many people, it is estimated that approximately 4 million patients do not benefit from taking standard antidepressant medication.

Depression Facts:

  • Women are more likely than men to suffer from depression

  • Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide

  • Depression has no racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic boundaries

  • Researchers estimate that by the year 2030, depression will be the leading cause of disease burden—impact on length and health of lives—worldwide

What causes depression?

While the exact cause of depression is not known, the leading scientific theory is that it is caused by an imbalance of the brain’s neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that send signals between brain cells.

While antidepressant drugs work for many people, some still do not receive adequate treatment. For these patients, the effects of depression can still be debilitating. These patients need a proven, safe depression treatment option.

Signs and Symptoms

If you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism

  • Irritability

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities

  • Decreased energy or fatigue

  • Moving or talking more slowly

  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions

  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping

  • Appetite and/or weight changes

  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few symptoms while others may experience many. Several persistent symptoms in addition to low mood are required for a diagnosis of major depression, but people with only a few – but distressing – symptoms may benefit from treatment of their “subsyndromal” depression. The severity and frequency of symptoms and how long they last will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness. Symptoms may also vary depending on the stage of the illness.

 

Risk Factors

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

Depression can happen at any age, but often begins in adulthood. Depression is now recognized as occurring in children and adolescents, although it sometimes presents with more prominent irritability than low mood. Many chronic mood and anxiety disorders in adults begin as high levels of anxiety in children.

Depression, especially in midlife or older adults, can co-occur with other serious medical illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease. These conditions are often worse when depression is present. Sometimes medications taken for these physical illnesses may cause side effects that contribute to depression. A doctor experienced in treating these complicated illnesses can help work out the best treatment strategy.

Risk factors include:

  • Personal or family history of depression

  • Major life changes, trauma, or stress

  • Certain physical illnesses and medications