Updated: May 7, 2021
I am grateful there is a movement to bring mental health out of the shadows. I'm also thankful that people with influence lend their voices and share their stories about their mental health. I see many people openly talking about their relationships with their therapists. The march forward to destigmatize and promote mental health is growing. Hopefully, the stigma associated with mental health will continue its gradual decline. These efforts to reduce stigma can transform the lives of people living with mental health disorders.
In retrospect, I knew many people who struggled with depression or had symptoms of depression. I'm not sure they realized they were depressed or if they would even acknowledge being depressed. Many of these individuals were everything to everybody but not much to themselves. Now that I am thinking about it, with good intentions, they were helping others. Still, it was almost like they were trying to fill a void that existed within themselves. They were the resident gurus that had all the answers to many questions. They found answers in situations that appeared hopeless.
These individuals had the right words in what seemed like every moment. They always smiled at the right time, and their generosity was legendary. One would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would speak ill of these individuals. Despite the progress made with people openly acknowledging their mental health struggles, it is still difficult to discuss. The stigma around mental health is well documented, and the reasons people do not access care. In this post, I will provide information on one of the most commonly diagnosed mental illness. It is essential to distinguish between mental illness and mental health.
Mental Illness and Mental Health
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) provides a description of mental illness and mental health:
"Mental Illness refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders - health conditions involving
significant changes in thinking, emotion, and/or behavior.
Distress and/or problems functioning in social, work, or family activities
Mental Health - involves effective functioning in daily activities resulting in
Productive activities (work, school, caregiving)
Ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity."
According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2019, 19.2% of American adults accessed mental health services in the previous 12 months. Another 15.8% were prescribed and took prescription medication for their mental health. 9.5% received assistance from a mental health professional. The CDC also reported that women were more likely to seek care for their mental health. Where are the men, you might ask? They are suffering in silence. Encourage the men in your lives to seek support if they appear depressed. Even if they claim you are nagging.
In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 1 in 4 people worldwide will be affected by a "mental or neurological disorder" during their lives. WHO also said, depressive disorders were the 4th ranked cause of disease and disability worldwide. They projected that by 2020, depressive illnesses will become the second-highest ranked cause of illness and disability behind heart disease.
WHO's projection was not made with COVID-19 in mind. Of course, the pandemic changed our lives. Mental health experts are helping people deal with pandemic fatigue. Pandemic fatigue can make people feel isolated, sad, overwhelmed, and exhausted. All are symptoms associated with depression. Experiencing these symptoms does not make a person clinically depressed. Still, it requires the person to address these symptoms before they begin to affect daily functioning.
Below is a list of depressive disorders, symptoms of depression, risk factors for depression, and treatment options.
Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
Major depressive disorder
Persistent depressive disorder
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
Substance/medication-induced depressive disorder
Other specified depressive disorder
Unspecified depressive disorder
What is common about these disorders?
somatic and cognitive changes that significantly affect the persons functioning
Symptoms of depression:
Feeling guilty or worthless or helpless
Loss of interest in pleasurable hobbies or activities
Suicidal ideations (suicidal thoughts) or suicide attempt
Self-harming (purposely injuring oneself)
Problems concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
Significant changes to sleep (feeling tired, even after sleeping well, not sleeping enough, sleeping too much)
Significant changes in appetite (not eating to overeating)
Irritable, easily frustrated, or restless
Fatigue or loss of energy
Loss of sexual desire not explained by another condition
Risk factors for depression:
Family history of depression (mom, dad, grandparents, siblings)
Environment (Exposure to crime, violence, poverty, abuse, neglect)
Major life changes
Trauma (physical, emotional, mental abuse, bullying, the victim of a crime ... intimate partner violence)
Personality (temperament, persistent negative thoughts, overwhelming stress, pessimism)
Treatment of depression:
Depression is a treatable disorder. Many people with depression seem to respond well to treatment. According to the APA, treatment of depression is effective for 80% to 90% of people.
The treatment of depression may include psychotherapy (talk-therapy) with a mental health professional. For example, your therapist may be trained in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). The therapist will collaborate with you and use CBT concepts to address your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to reduce your specific depressive symptoms. Another treatment option is psychotropic medications (antidepressants). Treatment may also be a combination of talk-therapy and psychotropic medications.
Once therapy is completed, mental health maintenance must become a prime concern. You may develop a mental health maintenance plan to include: identifying your triggers and warning signs for depression and practicing self-care activities that reduce stress. Your plan may also include monthly contact with your therapist. It is also beneficial to continue practicing the tools learned in therapy.
When I took abnormal psychology and psychopathology, many of my classmates tried to self-diagnose. Okay, I also tried to self-diagnose. So, I decided against including any information on diagnostic criteria to save you the trouble of self-diagnosing. Should you experience any of the symptoms associated with depressive disorders for a minimum of two weeks, you may want to consult with a mental health professional.
Stay Naturally Curious
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders 5th edition.
The National Institute of Mental Health https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml
American Psychiatric Association https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-mental-illness
American Psychiatric Association https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression