Depression is very common, affecting one in five people — if not you, then a friend or family member. This makes a basic knowledge of the disorder vital for everyone. Dr. Patricia Deldin of the University of Michigan Depression Center debunks misperceptions to encourage a better understanding.
Patricia Deldin: Depression is often misunderstood in the public. Sometimes people think that people with depression are weak, or lazy, when in actuality um people with depression are struggling with a very complex illness that has biological, psychological, and social causes and consequences. Depression is extremely common, it affects one in four women, and about one in five or six men. And those who don’t experience depression themselves often have a friend, or a family member who are experiencing it. The most commonly experienced symptoms of depression are sad mood, and lack of pleasure. People often note sleep changes and energy changes. And almost everybody I’ve ever interviewed, which would be over two thousand people with depression, all experienced the feelings of worthlessness. Almost every single one. Depression is an invisible illness, it is not one that you can see just by looking at somebody. Normal sadness can occur in response to life events. Depression, at least in its later stages, tends to be disconnected from life events. So, depression and sadness share the sadness, but depression is so much more than just sadness. And, as a matter of fact, some people think the worst part of depression is not experiencing pleasure. There is a numbness in how sometimes when people have severe depression feel. “Pull yourself up by the bootstraps. You should get yourself out of this.”Or, things like, “Your life is great, what do you have to be depressed about?” Depression is definitely not related to someone’s character, or moral shortcomings. And it is really interesting to think that if medication can help people who have these illnesses, how could it really be about their morality? Depression can affect every aspect of a person’s life. It can affect their job performance, their family relationships, their divorce rates are higher, it can affect their parenting abilities. And depression is one of the leading causes of economic burden of any diseases. People are often surprised to hear that it costs more to the society than cancer or heart disease. If depression goes untreated, it could turn out a variety of different ways. It could be that people stay at the same sort of negative level that they’ve been, or sometimes it can get much worse. So, it can with each passing depression, some people feel worse and worse, so that they might approximately about twenty percent of people, I believe, with major depression end up making some form of suicide attempt. So, the question is how do we get people to feel better so that they can think better, or vice versa? How do we get them to think differently so that they can feel differently? Usually people come at depression with one form of treatment or the other. They will either go and get medication, or they’ll go and get psychotherapy, or they will do nothing. In fact, the data supports that the best treatment for depression is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. There’s lots of strategies that people can use in order to feel better. Improving their sleep and sleep hygiene, exercising thirty minutes a day, um particularly aerobic exercise seems to be very effective for people with depression. And for the social piece, I’d really recommend to try and develop more social engagement with people because again I think that is one way that people can actually help themselves to feel better. The good news is that depression is a very treatable illness. The majority of people who get care, particularly if they can get care early, will end up doing very well.