Depression is a global challenge that affects individuals across different borders and cultures. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that about 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression, making it one of the leading causes of disability and suicide.

In the United States, millions of adults experience serious thoughts of suicide, with the highest rate among individuals being those with multiracial backgrounds. Data from WHO also revealed that approximately 4.84% of adults have reported experiencing such thoughts, totaling to more than 12.1 million individuals.

More than 10% of the youth population in the U.S. reportedly experience depression, which takes a toll on their lives. It severely impairs their ability to perform day-to-day functions at school, at work, at home and at social engagements.

According to the data from Mental Health America (MHA), 16.39% of young individuals aged 12 to 17 have reported experiencing at least one major depressive episode (MDE) within the past year. Additionally, 11.5% of these young people, or more than 2.7 million of them, have reported experiencing severe major depression.

What Is Depression?

Depressive disorder, also known as depression, is a common and serious medical illness characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities. It can lead to a variety of emotional, physical and social problems.

Individuals battling depression often struggle with basic tasks, experience a decreased quality of life and face increased risk factors for other health conditions including substance abuse, heart disease and diabetes.

Depression affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. It can have serious and sometimes fatal consequences if left untreated. It contributes to nearly 40,000 suicides in the United States each year.

Signs and Symptoms Associated with Depression

  • Persistent Sadness: A constant feeling of unhappiness and hopelessness
  • Loss of Interest or Pleasure: A decreased interest in activities or hobbies that were once enjoyable
  • Fatigue: Having low energy and experiencing persistent tiredness even after resting
  • Changes in Sleep Patterns: Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness)
  • Changes in Appetite or Weight: It can lead to either loss of appetite or overeating
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Trouble focusing, making decisions or remembering things
  • Feelings of Guilt or Worthlessness: Excessive guilt or feelings of inadequacy, often without valid reasons
  • Social Withdrawal: Isolation from friends and family and avoidance of social interactions
  • Agitation and Restlessness: A state of uneasiness or inability to relax
  • Thoughts of Death or Suicide: In severe cases, depression can lead to recurring thoughts of self-harm or suicide

It can also include unexplained physical ailments like headaches, digestive problems and more.

It's important to note that not everyone with depression will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary between individuals.

It is best to seek the help of a qualified health care professional for diagnosis and treatment if several of these symptoms persist for an extended period of time and significantly affect one's daily activities.

Depression is a treatable condition, and seeking help is a crucial step toward the pathway of recovery.

Causes of Depression

Depression is a complex mental health condition that can be caused by various factors or a combination of these factors. Some of the factors are as follows:

  • Genetic Predisposition: A family history of depression or other mood disorders may increase an individual's likelihood of experiencing depression
  • Biological Factors: It can be triggered by changes in brain structure and chemistry, hormonal imbalances and more
  • Environmental Factors: Stressful life events such as trauma, loss, financial difficulties or relationship problems can trigger or worsen depression
  • Substance Abuse: An addiction or misuse of substances like alcohol or drugs can increase the risk of depression
  • Psychological Factors: These include personality traits, low self-esteem, negative thought patterns and coping mechanisms that can make a person more vulnerable to depression
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical ailments, chronic illnesses and mental health conditions like bipolar disorder can lead to depression.

Treatment for Depression

Treatment for depression can vary from one person to another depending on the severity of the condition. Some of the commonly used treatments are psychotherapy (talk therapy), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medications like antidepressants.

Embracing lifestyle changes — which may come in the form of exercising regularly, following a healthy diet, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, managing stress, hanging out with family and friends or joining a support group — can also significantly help in preventing or managing depression.