Everyone feels "blue" at certain times in his or her life. In fact, transitory feelings of sadness or discouragement are perfectly normal, especially during difficult times. But a person who cannot "snap out of it" or get over these feelings within two weeks or so may be suffering from the illness called depression. Depression is one of the most common and treatable of all mental illnesses. In any six-month period, 9.4 million Americans suffer from this disease. One in four women and one in 10 men can expect to develop it during their lifetimes. Eighty to 90 percent of those who suffer from depression can be treated effectively, and nearly all people who receive treatment derive some benefit. (Hollon, DeRubeis & Seligman, 2002) Unfortunately, many fail to recognize the illness and to get the treatment that would alleviate their suffering. They or their loved ones fail to notice a pattern and instead may attribute the physical symptoms to the flu, the sleeping and eating problems to stress, and the emotional problems to a lack of sleep or improper eating. But if people look at all of these symptoms together and notice that they have occurred over long periods of time, they might recognize them as signs of depression.
The term "depression" can be confusing because it often is used to describe normal emotional reactions. At the same time, the illness may be hard to recognize because its symptoms may be attributed so easily to other causes. People tend to deny the existence of depression by saying things like "She has a right to be depressed! Look at what she has gone through." (Lowry, 2004) This attitude fails to recognize that people can go through tremendous hardships and stresses without developing depression and that those who do fall victim can and should seek treatment. Nearly everyone suffering from depression has pervasive feelings of sadness. In addition, depressed people may feel helpless, hopeless, and irritable. You should seek professional help if you or someone you know has had four or more of the following symptoms continually for more than two weeks:
For many victims of depression, these mental and physical feelings seem to follow them night and day, appear to have no end, and are alleviated by happy events or good news. Some people are so disabled by feelings of despair that they cannot build up the energy to call doctor. If someone else calls their behalf, they may refuse to because they are so hopeless they think there is no point. Family, friends, and coworkers offer advice, help, and comfort, over time, they become frustrated with victims of depression because their efforts are unavailing. The person will not follow advice, fuses help, and denies the comfort offered. But persistence can pay off. Many doctors think depression is the illness that underlies the majority of suicides in this country. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in America; it is the third leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24. Every day, 15 people aged 15 to 24 kill themselves. One of the best strategies for preventing suicide is early recognition and treatment of the depression, which so often leads to self-destruction. (Munoz, Gonzalez & Starkweather, 2005) ...
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