From: Helen Newell, President
NAMI, Winona Affiliate
Major depression is a serious medical illness affecting 15 million American adults, or approximately 5 to 8 percent of the adult population in a given year. Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss, or passing mood states, major depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with an individualís thoughts, behavior, mood, activity, and physical health. Among all medical illnesses, major depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and many other developed countries.
Depression occurs twice as frequently in women as in men, for reasons that are not fully understood. More than half of those who experience a single episode of depression will continue to have episodes that occur as frequently as once or even twice a year. Without treatment, the frequency of depressive illness as well as the severity of symptoms tends to increase over time. Left untreated, depression can lead to suicide.
Symptoms of major depression characteristically represent a significant change from how a person functioned before the illness. They include persistently sad or irritable mood; pronounced changes in sleep, appetite and energy, difficulty thinking, concentrating, and remembering; physical slowing or agitation; lack of interest in or pleasure from activities that were once enjoyed; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness and emptiness; recurrent thoughts of death or suicide; persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain. When several of these symptoms occur at the same time, last longer than two weeks, and interfere with ordinary functioning, professional treatment is needed.
Eighty to 90 percent of those diagnosed with major depression can be effectively treated and return to their usual daily activities and feelings.