If you're feeling depressed, you're far from alone.
Major depressive disorder affects approximately 17.3 million American adults, or about 7.1 percent of the U.S. population ages 18 and older, in a given year, according to a 2017 National Institute of Mental Health “Major Depression” study. And, major depressive disorder is more prevalent in women than in men, according to the "Journal of the American Medical Association." In fact, women are almost twice as likely as men to have had depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
But how do you know if you're just sad or if you're actually depressed? After all, what's the difference between sadness and depression?
Depression is nuanced, and it takes form in a variety of different ways.
"Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder," according to the National Institute of Mental Health. "It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks."
That said, some forms of depression are different, as they may develop under unique circumstances. Here are a few examples.
All in all, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease, according to the World Health Organization. In fact, depression usually accompanies other illnesses, like the following, according to the National Institute of Mental Health:
The symptoms of depression vary from person to person. Not every person who is depressed will experience every single symptom associated with depression. That said, typically, depression manifests as such:
Depression differs from sadness in that sadness is a side effect of depression. While you may feel sad one day, perhaps following an upsetting experience, you may not actually be depressed. It's important to note that, in order for a person to be diagnosed with depression, their symptoms must subsist for at least two weeks.
There are several treatment options for depression. Some treatments work well for some people with depression, while others do not. The side effects of these treatments will also vary from person to person, so it's important that, if you're depressed, you consult your doctor about all of your treatment options.
In short, depression is usually treated with medications, psychotherapy or a combination of the two.
Many types of antidepressants are available, including the following:
Meanwhile, psychotherapy is a "general term for treating depression by talking about your condition and related issues with a mental health professional," and is also known as "talk therapy" or "psychological therapy," according to MayoClinic.
For others, doctors may recommend other procedures such as brain-stimulation therapies like the following:
Up to 80 percent of those treated for depression do indeed show an improvement in their symptoms generally within four to six weeks of beginning their medication, psychotherapy, support groups or a combination of those treatments, according to the National Institute of Health.
Again, different treatments affect different people in different ways, and the side effects can sometimes be worse than the symptoms of depression itself. For that reason, it's hugely important that you consult your doctor about all of your treatment options in order to pick the best treatment for you.
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, reach out for help. There's a wealth of resources available to you to learn more about depression, research your treatment options and find doctors and support groups to help you get through it. Here are just a few to get you started:
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.