The number of deaths from suicide each year is greater than the number of deaths from AIDS.
Depression is not sadness. In depression, we lose the ability to feel much of any emotion. The true opposite of depression is vitality — the ability to feel a full range of emotions, including happiness, joy, pride, but also including sadness and grief.
The annual cost of depression to the U.S. economy is estimated at $44 billion. It is second only to cancer in terms of economic impact, higher than the cost of heart disease, AIDS, kidney disease, anything else, not only in the U.S. but around the world. Yet, there is no high-profile organization helping with research and treatment like the American Heart Association or American Cancer Society.
Almost 20 percent of Americans have depression, most without knowing it. They just assume that they can't win, that their relationships are always trouble, and that hopelessness, insomnia, chronic fatigue, and guilt are their lot in life.
Research estimates that 10 percent of children will suffer a depressive episode before age 12.
In the past 25 years, while the general incidence of suicide has decreased, the rate of suicide for those between 15 and 19 has quadrupled.
Many alcoholics treat an underlying depression with alcohol. Their depression makes sobriety doubly difficult. Many substance abuse treatment programs now refer their patients in recovery for treatment of depression.
Procrastination is a hallmark of depression. The depressive puts things off until they seem insurmountable. This reinforces his feelings of self-blame and despair. But it also protects him from ever risking his absolute best effort at any task.
Women are three times as likely to become depressed as men. No one knows for sure why this is the case. Theories suggest that women's social role has historically been less satisfactory, that their hormonal ebb and flow makes them more susceptible, that they are more likely to experience trauma, and that they are simply given social permission to express depression.
Men are five times more likely than women to commit suicide. Instead of permitting themselves to feel the emotional symptoms of depression, men defend against them through dangerous, self-destructive or antisocial behaviors, by somatization (rushing to the ER with chest pains that turn out to be an anxiety attack), or by trying to treat them with alcohol. Many men feel they are faking it, making it up as they go along, always one misstep away from disaster. They try to reassure themselves by swaggering around the house, but they wonder if women aren't really laughing behind their backs. Many abusers use violence to express the frustrations and hopelessness that come from depression.
Six million elderly suffer from some form of depression. Their depression tends to be dismissed as inevitable, but in fact is caused more by poor health and poor sleep than grief, loss, or isolation. Among the elderly who commit suicide, almost 75 percent visit a doctor within a week before their deaths, but only in 25 percent of those cases did the physician recognize a depression.
November 2, 2011
Dr. Richard O'Connor maintains an office in Sharon, Connecticut. Call 860-364-9300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an initial consultation.