Depression differs from sadness in its intensity, frequency, and duration.
- Intensity: While the event would make most people sad, you respond with a much deeper level of sadness. It is too intense. Your sadness moves outside the normal range of response.
- Frequency: Your sadness may not be out of proportion, but it is recurrent. You seem to get over it and then it comes back. This repetitive cycle becomes a pattern in your life.
- Duration: Your sadness comes and it stays and stays. The sadness lasts much longer than it does for most other people in similar circumstances.
Depression can severely disrupt your life, affecting your appetite, sleep, work, and relationships.
The symptoms that help a doctor identify depression include:
- constant feelings of sadness, irritability, or tension
- decreased interest or pleasure in usual activities or hobbies
- loss of energy, feeling tired despite lack of activity
- a change in appetite, with significant weight loss or weight gain
- a change in sleeping patterns, such as difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much
- restlessness or feeling slowed down
- decreased ability to make decisions or concentrate
- feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
- thoughts of suicide or death
What Causes Depression?
Most likely, depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression too. In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger. (NIMH, 2015)
Did You Know?
- Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Each year about 6.7% of U.S adults experience major depressive disorder.
- Women are 70 % more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime.
- Non-Hispanic blacks are 40% less likely than non-Hispanic whites to experience depression during their lifetime.
- The average age of onset is 32 years old.
- Additionally, 3.3% of 13 to 18 year olds have experienced a seriously debilitating depressive disorder.
Should You Seek Professional Help?
Depression is treatable. A mental health professional should be consulted if any of the following are accurate:
- Pain or problems outweigh pleasures much of the time;
- Symptoms are so severe and persistent that day-to-day functioning is impaired;
- Stress seems so overwhelming that suicide seems to be a viable option.
Qualified mental health professionals can help identify the causes and sources of depression and can help you find ways to overcome them.
If you would like to speak to a counselor about your concerns, contact Duke Personal Assistance Service at 919-416-1PAS.
PAS is a free and confidential service for Duke faculty, staff, and their immediate family members.
For more information about depression and other mental health issues, visit the following websites.
- National Institute of Mental Health
- American Psychological Association
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Suicide Awareness/Voices of Education Web Site
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