What is Depression?

Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a serious mood disorder commonly increasing across the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. It affects how one thinks, feels, and handles day to day chores like eating, sleeping and working.

Symptoms of depression are:
  • Feeling sad or empty
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless and feeling inappropriate guilt
  • Persistent irritability and anger (in children)
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of interest in most activities
  • Recurrent thoughts of death
  • Loss of sleep
  • Weight gain or loss along with loss of appetite
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty in concentrating or remembering
1. According to the 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, to be diagnosed with clinical depression the person must have 5 out of the 9 symptoms that are prevalent for at least two weeks. The change can be at the emotional or physical level.

2. Depression might ultimately lead to suicide. Worldwide, a million lives are lost due to suicide every year. This translates to 3000 deaths a day.

3. Among the 1 million deaths worldwide, 170,000 occur in India and 140,000 in high-income countries.

4. Suicides are the second leading cause of deaths in young adults (in the age group of 15 -29 years old).

5. The proportion of a population that has experienced depression at some point in their life ranges from 3 % in Japan to 16.9 % in the United States.

6. A survey in 17 countries by the World Mental Health found that 1 in 20 people have an episode of depression in a given year.

7. Depression is more prevalent in women than men. Maternal depression could be a risk factor for poor growth in young children.

8. In a given year, depression affects more than 15 million American adults (6.7 % of the population).

9. Disability-adjusted life years or DALYs is the total number of years lost due to illness, disability or premature death due to a certain disease or disorder within a given population. Major depressive disorder carries the heaviest burden (3.7 % of all U.S. DALYs) within the mental and behavioral category.

10. The WHO has stated that 1 out of 15 people suffer from major depression every year in the European region while depression affects 40.8 million people in South East Asia.

11. Depression can happen at any age, but it often begins in young adults. It can co-occur with serious physical illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease and mental illnesses like anxiety.

12. Broadly, depression is seen to occur due to major life changes, trauma, stress, certain physical illnesses and medications.

13. Depression is linked to low levels of a brain hormone called serotonin that affects mood. Depression that occurs in teens, during menopause, pregnancy and post delivery could be due to other hormonal changes.

14. Medications that target increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin nor-epinephrine re-uptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are effective and have few side effects.

15. With or without medications, depression can be managed by psychotherapy or counseling. Approaches are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal and psychodynamic where the therapists go through the factors that might have caused the depression and change the way the individuals perceive them.

  1. World Federation for Mental Health - http://www.who.int/mental_health/management/depression/wfmh_paper_depression_wmhd_2012.pdf)
  2. Major Depression Among Adults - (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml)
  3. Depression - (http://ccrhindia.org/pdf/stg_6_Deprerssion.pdf)
  4. Transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses - (http://www.nimh.nih.gov)
  5. Face to face consultations in UK and Hong Kong and via Skype elsewhere in the world. - (http://www.brainnutrition.co.uk)

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