According to The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in 2014, an estimated 15.7 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This number represented 6.7% of all U.S. adults. Research also indicates that those in certain profession are at a higher risk for depression. For example, in a recent study, 28% of lawyers suffered from depression. 29% of young doctors are reported to suffer from depression.
Unfortunately, despite how common depression is, there is still a lot of stigma around it. Often, those who suffer from depression feel she should be able to “buck up” and simply stop feeling this way. Here are 10 things you need to know about depression.
1. Depression Looks Different For Different People
NIMH lists the following as signs and symptoms of depression:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms
This is just a partial list and not everyone experiences every symptom. Depression is easily spotted when it takes the form that people readily recognize: sadness.
However, according to Brooklyn, NY based therapist, Justin Lioi, LCSW, who specializes in men‘s counseling, “depression can often be masked with anger, or irritability. Having depression, which is in a sense deep, deep sadness, doesn’t sit well with many people, particularly men. It seems “weak,” but being irritable is a curmudgeonly, if annoying, forgivable, and stronger personality trait.”
If more people could connect their annoyance, frustration, and irritability with depression (a shame filled emotion) there might be less requests for anger management and more for anger expression.”
2. Your Fears About Depression — They Are Normal
Many therapist I interviewed for the story all shared that it’s extremely common for those who struggle with depression to have fears, or sometimes, even self-loathing about how they feel.
Gary Brown, Ph.D., LMFT, FAPA, FAAETS, licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles shared four common feelings:
1. Fear of stigma of being diagnosed with depression.
2. Fear that they might lose a relationship or their job.
3. They erringly believe that feelings of depression mean that they are “crazy”.
4. Their culture discourages asking for help with anything that could be seen as a mental disturbance.
Steven J. Hanley, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist shared:
Seeking treatment for depression often involves confronting terrifying parts of our minds and hearts that we would rather not see or know. The idea of sharing these aspects with a professional helper can leave us feeling shameful and vulnerable. That a depressed person even makes a call to inquire about psychotherapy with me is often a huge first step. It takes a great deal of courage to move towards helping yourself like that.
3. Understanding The Spectrum Of Depression
People can mistakenly see depression as being binary. I either have depression or I don’t. However, Psychotherapist and fitness specialist Kathryn Gates who practices out of Downtown Austin, TX says that people should view depression as being on a continuum.
Thousands of people who don’t seek treatment for depression would if we viewed mental health in our culture as being on a continuum, as opposed to “either I’m crazy or I’m not.”
According to Gates, “all of us meet some of the criteria required to diagnose mental illness. And most people meet the full criteria to “have” one mental disorder or another. If being in therapy wasn’t so stigmatized, more people would seek out treatment and continue with it as they see improved health.
It’s okay to see a therapist! It doesn’t mean you are crazy!”