Major depression is a serious medical illness affecting 9.9 million American adults, or approximately 5 percent of the adult population in a given year. Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss, or passing mood states, major depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with an individual’s thoughts, behavior, mood, activity, and physical health.
Among all medical illnesses, major depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and many other developed countries.
More than twice as many women (6.7 million) as men (3.2 million) suffer from major depressive disorder each year. Major depression can occur at any age including childhood, the teenage years and adulthood.
All ethnic, racial and socioeconomic groups suffer from depression. About three-fourths of those who experience a first episode of depression will have at least one other episode in their lives. Some individuals may have several episodes in the course of a year.
If untreated, episodes commonly last anywhere from six months to a year. Left untreated, depression can lead to suicide.
What are the symptoms of Major Depression?
The onset of the first episode of major depression may not be obvious if it is gradual or mild. The symptoms of major depression characteristically represent a significant change from how a person functioned before the illness. The symptoms of depression include:
- persistently sad or irritable mood
- pronounced changes in sleep, appetite, and energy
- difficulty thinking, concentrating, and remembering
- physical slowing or agitation
- lack of interest in or pleasure from activities that were once enjoyed
- feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, and emptiness
- recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
- persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
When several of these symptoms of depressive disorder occur at the same time, last longer than two weeks, and interfere with ordinary functioning, professional treatment is needed.