By KIMBERLY STRICKLAND, D.O.
We’ve all had days when we’ve felt down and nothing seems to go right. However, if those bad days outnumber the good ones and you can’t seem to shake the “blahs,” don’t minimize these feelings as just a “blue” period. Feelings of intense sadness, helplessness, or hopelessness that endure for more than a few days and as long as several weeks – and begin to interfere with your ability to function on a daily basis – may be clinical depression.
Clinical depression is a common condition, affecting more than 19 million Americans each year – and it can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, or health status. Despite this, only half of Americans diagnosed with clinical depression receive treatment for it, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. Many people tend to explain away their symptoms, dismiss them as a personal weakness rather than a legitimate medical condition, or try to treat symptoms on their own. This can actually make the condition worse, because most people who experience depression need treatment to get better – and early treatment is more effective and decreases the likelihood of a recurrence down the road.
Depression has many causes: biological (internal factors in our biological make-up), cognitive (mental issues), genetic (relating to one’s family background or development) and situational (based on one or more external life events). Often, depression is the result of a combination of these factors.
While there is no single cause, here are a few common factors:
• Women are more likely to develop depression than men – possibly due to hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and childbirth, and aging.
• Some medications can cause depression.
• Depression is more likely to occur with certain illnesses: heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, hormonal disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.