People experience depression in different ways, and it can often interfere with daily work and relationships. Depression can result in lost time at work and lower productivity. It can also influence some chronic health conditions.
Depression is classified as a mood disorder that can be described as feelings of sadness, loss, or anger. These negative emotions interfere with a person’s everyday activities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression affects one in 10 Americans.
People with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) experience an almost constant state of sadness, emptiness, and despair for at least two weeks. MDD is a debilitating disease that can seriously affect a person’s health and well-being. If someone has MDD, he or she may be unable to enjoy activities that he or she once found pleasurable, and may have a hard time eating, sleeping, and working.
Many people use the word “depression” to describe this mood disorder. However, medical professionals prefer to use the term “major depressive disorder” or “major depression.” Both of these terms describe a specific medical condition rather than a general group of behaviors that don’t meet the criteria for an MDD diagnosis. When people refer to “clinical depression,” they’re typically referring to MDD.
In some cases, the symptoms and the course of this disorder are significantly different than usual. This can be due to certain behaviors or other factors. MDD can be a single episode, it can be ongoing, or it can recur.
Men and women deal with depression differently. Men tend to turn to drugs and alcohol, eat less and lose weight, sleep less and become irritable, become prone to sudden anger, lose emotional control, take unnecessary risk, and successfully commit suicide. On the other hand, women tend to feel guilty, sad, helpless, and sleep and eat more. They also attempt suicide, but usually fail. Women experience depression 2 times as often compared to men, and 12% of women experience clinical depression, which is regarded as the most severe form of depression. It is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness that do not go away on their own. In addition, 1 in 10 new fathers and 15% of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression, which are feelings of anxiety and restlessness, often referred to as the “baby blues,” after birth of a child. Suicide rates among men is 4 times that of women.
People with depression are 4x as likely to have a heart attack than those without. For women, 435,000 women have heart attacks annually, while men have 820,000 heart attacks annually. Divorced and single men are, relatively, more likely to be depressed than divorced and single women. Conversely, married women are more likely to be depressed than married men. In addition, 40% of women and 50% of men will not seek professional help to deal with their depression.
Does our society create depression, anxiety, and dysfunction? In “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?” (New York Review of Books, 2011), Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, discusses over-diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, pathologizing of normal behaviors, Big Pharma corruption of psychiatry, and the adverse effects of psychiatric medications.
A June 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 70% of Americans hate their jobs or have “checked out” of them. Life may or may not suck any more than it did a generation ago, but our belief in “progress” has increased expectations that life should be more fulfilling and satisfying, resulting in an incredible amount of disappointment. For many of us, society has become increasingly alienating, isolating and insane, and earning a buck means more degrees, compliance, kissing up, and inauthenticity. So, we want to rebel. However, many of us feel hopeless about the possibility of either our own escape from societal oppression or that political activism can create societal change. So, many of us, especially young Americans, rebel by what is commonly called mental illness.
Many of us live dulled lives, somewhat robotic in nature and devoid of deeper meaning and purpose. Our lives, often become visionless and passionless. We live in an intensely competitive culture that rewards achievement and success. Our identity and esteem become reflections of these external markers of achievement. When we compare our lives to those leading extraordinary and “fun” lives, we feel a sense of emptiness and a thirst for something better.