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Depression Facts and Statistics

Depression affects millions of Americans each year.Depression, which affects 17 million Americans each year, is the most commonly diagnosed of the psychiatric illness. Statistics show that 15% of all Americans will have at least one bout of depression during their lifetime that will be serious enough to warrant medical attention.

This dehabilitating disease is more common in women (1 in 6 will seek help for depression at some time in their lives) than in men (1 in 9) and is four times more likely to affect the elderly than the young. Depression can be triggered by certain illnesses, by hormonal disorders/imbalances such as those caused by birth control pills and by hormone replacement therapy, by disturbing and/or traumatic events or changes in life, by tension or stress, by chemical imbalances in the brain, by thyroid disorders, by poor diet and lack of exercise, by allergies, and by premenstrual and postpartum chemical shifts.

Depression is not the same as being sad or discouraged. These feelings are a normal part of life and qenerally pass on. True depression is severe sadness and hopelessness that does not go away over time and that makes normal activities impossible. The American Psychiatric Association bases its definition of clinical depression or major depression on the following eight primary criteria:

  • Poor appetite accompanied by weight loss, or increased appetite accompanied by weight gain

  • Insomnia or excessive sleep habits (hypersomnia)

  • Physical hyperactivity or inactivity

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, or decrease in sexual drive

  • Loss of energy; feelings of fatigue

  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or inappropriate guilt

  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate

  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

If a person is suffering from at least five of these eight symptoms they are diagnosed with clinical depression, while a person with four out of the eight symptoms is just "possibly" depressed. The above symptoms must be present for at least one month to be called depression.

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Depression Related Diseases

There are varying types and degrees of depression. Mild depression is known as dysthymia. Unlike clinical or major depression, mild depression is not necessarily disabling, but it does keep a person from functioning normally and interferes with their social interactions and enjoyment of life. Dysthymia is diagnosed when the patient has been depressed for most of the time for at least two years (one year for children or adolescents) and has at least three of the following symptoms: low self-esteem or lack of self-confidence, anxiety, variable moods, fits of crying for no apparent reason, pessimism, hopelessness or despair, lack of interest in ordinary pleasures and activities, withdrawal from social activities, fatigue or lethargy, guilt or ruminating about the past, irritability or excessive anger, lessened productivity, and difficulty concentrating or making decisions.

There are varying types and degress of depression.  Seasonal affective disorder occurs when a person becomes depressed during the winter months. Another type of depression is called seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder occurs when a person becomes more depressed during the winter months and suffers a loss of energy, anxiety attacks, weight gain, excessive sleep, and a reduced sex drive. This disease is more common in women than in men.

The most severe and the most rare type of depression (affecting only about eight per 1,000 people) is called manic depression. This form of depression is equally common among men and women and can consist of depression and/or mania.

Depression can also lead into other diseases and disorders. For example, depression is often a first or early manifestation of thyroid disease. Stress can cause the adrenal glands to malfunction, elevating cortisol levels and decreasing DHEA levels in the glands. These abnormal cortisol levels can cause depression, mania, nervousness, insomnia and sometimes even schizophrenia.

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Depression Nutritional Support Strategies

Obviously depression is a serious disease that requires treatment. Our Depression Self-management Program will give you additional nutrient and lifestyle information that is helpful in treating depression. We also include the Center for Disease Control Framework for Depression Prevention and Control to help you understand on a large scale what the government is doing.

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Related Links

Accent Health: More information on the types and symptoms of depression, depression self-assessment test, treatment options, and links to other helpful sites.

National Institute of Mental Health: Includes full text of brochure on depression and other helpful articles and research.

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