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What Is Depression

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the fourth most burdensome disease each year.  Burdensome diseases are defined as those that affect people for an extended period of time, typically for years.  They estimate that there are 120 million people that suffer from this illness every year worldwide.  In the U.S. the total estimated to be diagnosed each year is about 17 million sufferers, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.  Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed as men, but this disparity is probably due to the fact that women are much more likely to seek help than men are when they feel depressed.

There are various levels of depression, and approximately 80% of those that are diagnosed with depression each year suffer from it to the point that their depression interferes in some way with their daily lives.  Close to 30% of those diagnosed suffer bad enough to make medical intervention necessary.  The most alarming figure to consider that is among those that have actually been diagnosed with depression, less than 50% of them will seek follow-up professional help.  That is particularly disturbing because about 90% of those that receive the diagnosis go on to at least attempt suicide, according to the Journal of Employee Assistance.

How does one know if they have a case of clinical depression, or if they are simply feeling the blues?  There are symptoms to look for.  Sometimes it can be difficult for the person that is actually suffering from the disease to recognize the signs and to admit to them self that they should seek medical assistance.  Often, particularly for men, they are embarrassed to admit that they may need help.   If you are a loved one of someone that you suspect could be suffering from depression, there are some symptoms to look for to determine if you need to encourage them to get help.

Some symptoms to consider are:  fatigue, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, insomnia, irritability, lack of interest in activities you normally enjoy including sex, loss of appetite, aches and pains that just will not go away, empty feelings, and thoughts of suicide.  These are according to the National Institute of Mental Health.  You may have some, or all of these symptoms.  Certainly if you are plagued by thoughts of suicide you should seek immediate help.

Depression is a medical illness, and as such it is a treatable condition.  It is not a sign of weakness and nobody should ever fail to seek help because they are embarrassed.  Consider this final statistic, and possibly it will motivate you to seek help for yourself or your loved one who you suspect is depressed.  Depression is life threatening.  One out of ten people who suffer from it do end up successfully committing suicide.  Anyone who expresses thoughts of suicide should be taken seriously.    You should call the local suicide hotline, or seek other medical assistance right away.  Recognizing the signs of depression and taking immediate action can literally save the life of someone that you love dearly.


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