In any given year, 9.5 percent of the population, or about 18.8 million American adults, suffer from a depressive illness. The economic cost for this disorder is high, but the cost in human suffering cannot be estimated. Depressive illnesses often interfere with normal functioning and cause pain and suffering not only to those who have a disorder, but also to those who care about them.
Most people with a depressive illness do not seek treatment, although the great majority—even those whose depression is extremely severe—can be helped. Thanks to years of fruitful research, there are now medications and psychosocial therapies such as cognitive/behavioral, "talk", or interpersonal therapies that can help alleviate depressive symptoms.
Unfortunately, many people do not recognize that depression is a treatable illness. If you feel that you or someone you care about is one of the many undiagnosed depressed people in this country, the information presented here may help you to take the steps to seek appropriate treatment for yourself or someone you care about.
A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, including medication and/or counseling, can help most people who suffer from depression.
Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience a few symptoms, some many. Severity of symptoms varies with individuals and also varies over time.
Source: 1994 edition of Plain Talk About Depression, written by Margaret
Strock, Information Resources and Inquiries Branch, Office of
Communications, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Do you feel you may be suffering from depression? Take an online depression screening quiz .