Updated: Feb 10
Depression can be a complex condition.
Almost one in five Americans will suffer from a bout of depression at some point in their lives. Even if you haven't experienced depression, you probably know someone who has. Here are some facts about depression that everyone should know.
1. Women are more likely to be depressed than men.
Women are 70% more likely to experience depression than men. Hormones are partly to blame. Women are more likely to be depressed during and after pregnancy because of the hormonal shifts related to pregnancy and childbirth. The combined stress of work and family responsibilities may also play a role. Part of the difference between men and women though is that women are more likely to tell their doctors about their symptoms and seek help.
2. Your genes play a role.
Experts believe that about 50% of depression stems from genetics. This probably doesn't come from just one gene but a combination. But, if you have a parent or sibling with depression, your risk is two to three times greater than it is for someone without this family history. The more severe the depression, the more likely the link to genetics. Other causes include child abuse, loss of a parent early in life, and severe stress. However, often the cause is not known.
3. You might not respond to the first treatment.
Up to 50% of people diagnosed with major depression don't get better with their initial treatment. Doctors even have a term for this: treatment-resistant depression. That refers to depression that doesn't improve after six weeks of treatment. Experts think that genes may be strongly involved when people have treatment-resistant depression. In many cases, changing or adding a medication can help.
4. Talk therapy can work as well as medication.
Talking through your depression with a mental health expert (called psychotherapy) helps many people. For some, it works as well as taking antidepressants. In fact, for mild to moderate depression, talk therapy may be your best option. If you do need an antidepressant, many studies show that combining medication and psychotherapy is better than medication alone. Also, talk therapy may be the safest treatment for women who get depressed while pregnant or breastfeeding.
5. Depression can cause hallucinations.
A severe type of depression can cause you to hear, see or believe things that are not real. This is psychotic depression. For instance, people with psychotic depression might hear voices or think the government is after them. About 20% of people with major depression have these symptoms. If you have a family history of depression, you may be at greater risk for psychotic depression. Doctors often use shock treatments to treat this type of severe depression because they work faster than antidepressants.
6. Magnets might relieve depression.
Magnetic pulses are one of the newest ways to treat depression. The pulses go through a coil placed against your head. The name for this treatment is repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. You don't need anesthesia. All you feel is a slight tapping. Each session lasts 30 to 60 minutes. Your doctor may prescribe 20 or more sessions over a 4- to 6-week period. This treatment is for people who don't respond to antidepressant medication.
7. Children also get depressed.
About 1 in 30 young children get depressed. One sign of this is withdrawal from friends and activities. Kids who are depressed also might start doing poorly in school. They often become irritable or have physical complaints. These symptoms often are missed. Adults think the problem is something else. That's why two-thirds of children with mental health problems don't get help. But, treating depression works in kids, just like it does in adults.
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