Characteristics of Depressed People

Young woman sitting alone looking out window
Depression can result in isolation. (Image: m-imagephotography/iStock/Getty Images)

If you suffer from depression, you are most certainly not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the most prevalent mental illnesses is major depressive disorder. This intense form of the disease affects nearly 7 percent of American adults in a year. And women are likelier to be afflicted, at a lifetime rate of 70 percent more than men. The American Psychiatric Association says that 17 million Americans struggle with depression each year. The best way to be able to recognize and pursue treatment for depression in yourself and others is through education and awareness.

Most Common Signs of Depression

Clinical depression is much more severe than a case of the blues, and it is an umbrella for many sub-types of depression such as postpartum, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Of course, we are all going to experience loss and attendant sadness in life when things like divorce, job loss, or death of loved-ones occur. However, according to the University of California, Berkeley, heath-services Web site, acute sadness that lasts more than two weeks should be brought to your doctor's attention. The most common signs of severe depression include acute sadness (often accompanied by an "empty" feeling); sleep troubles (insomnia or excessive need for slumber); changes in appetite (consuming not enough food or too much); and loss of interest in things that once brought pleasure (hobbies, socializing, sex).

Less-Common Signs

There are also side effects of depression that aren't as universal. These include headaches and stomach problems, difficulty concentrating, sudden increase in muscle or body pain, and frequent falls, according the Harvard Medical School blog. Indeed, many people first go to their doctor with physical ailments that the physician then interprets as signs of clinical depression.

See Your Doctor, Stat!

If you or a loved-one is experiencing thoughts of self-harm (e.g., cutting), suicide, or thoughts of hurting or killing others, do not waste any time and see a doctor or visit an emergency room immediately. Per the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the top signs of suicide risk are: talking about suicide or a suicide plan, hoarding medications or purchasing a gun, expressing worry about being a burden to others, and feeling hopeless.

How to Help

Depression is caused by a variety of factors, including environmental, genetic and psychological elements. This is a biological illness, and can be seen in brain scans of affected individuals, says the National Institute of Mental Health. Patients should not be expects to "snap out of it." If you see someone you care about exhibiting the symptoms listed above, help them to get care. Treatment these days is highly effective, and it encompasses medication, psychotherapy ("talk therapy"), cognitive behavioral therapy and many other options.

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