It’s natural for people to be sad, frustrated or go through “the blues” every once in a while, especially if there are certain aspects of their lives that are disheartening or if they experience painful events. Most people can easily pull themselves back up after these disappointments. However, this is not the case if you have depression.
Depression Definition: Is It a Mental Illness?
Clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder (MDD),1 is actually a severe and alarming condition that negatively affects a person’s mind and body. If you are depressed, then you have persistently low mood that coincides with feelings of sadness and loss of interest.2
This common but serious mood disorder can significantly impact how you think, feel and handle or cope with daily activities. The particular cause of depression is still unknown, although many factors may affect its onset, such as genes, substance abuse, environment changes and stress.3
Certain risk factors can also expose you to this disorder, such as life events, childhood trauma, head injury, use of prescription drugs and more.4 Depression may even occur after surgery, also known as post-operative depression.5
There are also no specific stages of depression, because this disorder is expressed differently depending on a person’s sex, age and culture. For instance, depressed teenagers are unlikely to exhibit the same behavior as a depressed elderly person would.6
Despite its cause still being unknown, one thing is for certain: Depression is insidious. It can mess with your appetite, sleep and performance at work. It can even affect your relationships and how you communicate with other people.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the primary cause of disability worldwide and is a significant contributor to the spread of debilitating diseases today.7
Depression Statistics: Just How Common Is This Disorder?
Depression is no laughing matter, as it is now one of the most common mental disorders plaguing people not only in the U.S., but worldwide. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 20 Americans aged 12 and older are struggling with depression today.
In 2014 alone, an estimated 15.7 million people aged 18 years and older in the U.S. — or 6.7 percent of all American adults — had a major depressive episode in that year.8
The numbers are even more staggering worldwide, as an estimated 350 million people are said to be dealing with this severe mood disorder today.9 This disorder does not discriminate, as it can occur in both males and females from all walks of life.10
However, according to the Mayo Clinic, women are twice as likely to become depressed, compared to men.11
How Do You Know If You (or Someone You Know) Has Depression?
So what does depression feel like? According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), if you are experiencing signs and symptoms for most of the day, almost every day for weeks, then you may be depressed. These symptoms include (but are not limited to):
✓ Pessimism or feeling hopeless
✓ Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
✓ Poor memory
✓ Loss of sleep, oversleeping or waking up very early in the morning
✓ Fatigue and lack of energy
✓ Feeling guilty, helpless or worthless
✓ Aches and pains that have no clear physical cause
For your condition to be formally classified as depression, you must exhibit symptoms for at least two weeks.12 If it is ongoing, it is not a passing problem that will go away in a few days. In fact, having an episode of this persistent condition can last between six to eight months on average.
If you feel as if you are suffering from depression, or you notice a loved one who is exhibiting these symptoms, seek professional help right away. If not addressed, depression can become extremely detrimental, and may even cause a person to become suicidal.