Depression A Common Cold of the Mental Health Problems

In our never-ending quest for happiness in our life, is some of the joy taken away? Have our thoughts for what we always want turned astray? Why has the quest for happiness left us more vulnerable and sad? Are we a society of melancholy people that are all looking for happiness and disappointed with what we find? Leaving us in a state of depression and unstableness. Turning us into not only a society of dismal people, but people that are left spiritless and melancholic?

In today’s society depression is referred to as the “common cold of the mental health problems.” More than 5 percent of Americans have depression, that equates to an astonishing 15 million people. It is said that 1 out of every 6 people has had a “major” depressive episode in their life. It is estimated that it costs the nation a sum of 43 billion dollars a year in medication, lost school days, lost workdays, and professional care for depression. Tens of thousands of people out of the 15 million attempts to commit suicide because of depression and about 16,000 of those people succeed.

Depression loosely defined is a disorder marked by a state of deep and pervasive sadness, dejection and hopelessness, accompanied by feeling of fatigue apathy, and low self-worth (Bourne and Russo 1998 p. A-24). Though that seems like a very comprehensive definition it is characterized by many different symptoms to combine to one effect on the psyche. Depression itself is not only widespread but also associated with many other psychological conditions, with many physical diseases, and most certainly, with social and external factors (Schwartz and Schwartz, 1993, p. 1).

There are several major causes of depression that may occur in people. The first causes are the biological causes are thought to be (1) heredity which includes the individuals inherit directly as well as genetic transmission of vulnerability. (2) physiological disturbance, which currently focuses on the body’s neurochemical, endocrine, and limbic systems.

Psychological causes are thought to include (1) family origin, which focuses on the general area of personality and its development, and on particular consequences of child rearing. (2) social influences, a broad category covering the general area of social and cultural factors, such as poverty, segregation, and sexism to name a few. Stress is another factor in depression. Stress can result from physical illness; from the inability to cope with certain life events, such as separation and loss, and from significant changes, such as marriage, and childbirth (Schwartz and Schwartz, 1993, p.3).

There are certain people that are more susceptible to depression than most other people. Those are people who are more likely to become depressed out of their nature than others, some of those people include (ranking in higher susceptibility): women, men, the Baby Boom generation, elderly, teens, and children. The likelihood of women getting depression is twice as high as men. Most women have had traumatic childhood experiences that do not surface until later on in life, thus leaving them vulnerable to depression.

Men are likely to get depression because it is said that men are supposed to rise above “feelings of emotion,” men often hide their sadness and that often leads to depression because they are ashamed of it. The circumstances that can add to this are those of abusing alcohol and drugs as a means of escape. It is said that Baby Boomers may be a reaction to the emotional disruptions of growing up in 1950’s and 60’s America with its unprecedented rates of divorce and relocation, leading to losses of family, friends, and community.

The Baby Boom generation also came of age during a time of record economic expansion, which created great expectations of wealth and success. But their enormous numbers also meant unprecedented competition for schools, jobs, and housing, leaving many of their dreams unfulfilled. When people feel a gap between what they expect and what they get unfulfilled expectations cause disappointment, frustration, loss of self-esteem and sometimes depression.

Depression in older people is often a reaction to physical deterioration and the loss of friends, family, and rewarding activities. There are things that signal depression in the elderly for example, unexplained crying is often a clue, so are combinations of vague physical symptoms, for example, headache, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, and upset stomach. Once other illnesses have been ruled out, depression is a real possibility. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death from age 15 to 19 (after accidents).

Adolescence is a difficult period teens experience major hormonal change. They have higher highs and lower lows. And they’re loosening family ties, but not yet established as individuals.” This combination can lead to deeply emotional reactions to major losses. Depression is not common in young children, but abuse, losses, and having a seriously depressed parent increase the risk. Their symptoms tend to be behavioral. One must notice unusual irritability, aggressive outbursts, and problems at school.

There are many symptoms that are included in the diagnosis of depression. There are major indicators that people should be aware of to let people know that they might have the possibility of having depression. Some of those symptoms are as follows: (1) The depressed mood – more than 90 percent of depressed people appear to be depressed. They look sad, their mouths are often turned down at the corners, their eyes may appear red and swollen from crying and they may lack a sense of humor. They will frequently show little interest or enjoyment for activities that normally enjoyable and may sometimes express fears of total loss of feeling (Strange, 1992, p. 259). (2)

Anhedonia – this is the lack of pleasure. Nothing the depressed person does can make them happy, for example, eating, going out, seeing friends and engaging in sports. They derive little pleasure from anything, and have no desire to participate in anything that was once pleasurable to them. (3) Pessimistic thoughts – the person experiences pessimistic thoughts about the present, future, and past. They include the feeling of worthlessness, failure, and lack of self-confidence.

The may feel very hopeless which can often lead to suicide. (4) Anxiety – Patients may experience the psychological manifestations of anxiety. From 60 to 70 percent of depressed patients report feelings of anxiety and sometimes extreme worrying. For example, a nonpsychiatric physician who hears a patient complains of anxiety often prescribes a tranquilizer such as Valium, which maybe ineffective and coutnerindicated for depression (Schwartz and Schwartz, 1993, p. 20). (5) Sleep disorders – Seventy to 80 percent of all persons with depression have some form of insomnia.

The most frequent type is one in which the individual, who is usually exhausted and has no trouble falling asleep, wakes up after several hours and is unable to get back to sleep. (6) Appetite changes – “The thought of food makes me ill,” is what the average depressive person says. The depressed person eats very little, and may refuse food or just nibble, even when favorite dishes are presented to them. Shopping for food, preparing it and even eating is expending energy that they do not have. (7) Changes in motor activity – depressed persons often speak very slowly.

They can be difficult to interview because it may take them longer to answer a question, and if they do respond it may only be in a monosyllable. Alternatively some patients exhibit agitation with restlessness and an inability to relax (Strange, 1992, p. 260). (8) Thoughts of death and suicide – many depressed persons think about death. They think of ending their lives as a way to escape the way the feel inside. They will make statements such as, “I’d like to get away from it all” and “I have nothing to live for.” Only a percent of depressed persons attempt suicide, but the risk of suicide in all depressives cannot be overstressed. Many, if not most, of those who attempt suicide speak their intentions before they do it (Schwartz and Schwartz, 1993, p. 21).