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Depression: Know Your Numbers

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If you or someone you know may need a mental health assessment, anonymous online tools are available. Indeed, there are many resources available to get screened for depression and other mental health issues. For example, for National Depression Screening Day on Oct. 6, you can get a free mental health screening at https://mentalhealthscreening.org.

October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month. About 350 million people have depression across the world. But only a fraction of those individuals are diagnosed or even screened for depression, and even fewer treated. As depression is the number one cause of disability, screening and diagnosis are essential for increasing the well-being of individuals and society.

Because sadness is only a small part of depression, many people don’t know that they are depressed. Some people with depression may not feel sad at all. Depression has many other symptoms, including physical ones. If you have been experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms for at least 2 weeks, you may be suffering from depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms

Furthermore, not all types of depression manifest the same. There are several types of depressive disorders, and individuals with less common types of depressive disorders may not know they have depression.

Major depression: Major depressive disorder is the most common type of depression. Severe symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes.

Persistent depressive disorder: A depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for 2 years.

Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances. They include:

Psychotic depression, which occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).

Postpartum depression, which is much more serious than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.

Bipolar disorder is different from depression. The reason it is included in this list is because someone with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extreme low moods (depression). But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extreme high moods (called “mania”).

Additional Resources: You can learn more about many of these disorders on the NIMH website at www.nimh.nih.gov. Some of this text was adapted from Depression: What you need to know, a publication of National Institute of Mental Health

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