According to official reports from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 16 million adult Americans (constituting roughly 7% of the population) experienced at least one episode of major depression last year. Of the annual average of 41,000 deaths by suicide within the country, 90% are believed to be rooted in mental illness such as depression.1
In the United States, according to federal law, private insurance companies must now provide coverage as fully to mental health conditions as they do to physical health. This is good news indeed for those suffering from depression. What is more, in order to combat this emotionally crippling disease, screenings are being encouraged for each patient, not only those who have mental health services available.
In the United States, according to federal law, private insurance companies must now provide coverage as fully to mental health conditions as they do to physical health.
Doctors who provide primary care are being encouraged, but not required, to screen their patients with a simple survey. Many who suffer from depression do not realize their condition and therefore do not get proper medical assistance. The following information will help to identify what depression is, how one can self-screen, and what possibilities can be considered for obtaining further help with depression concerns.
Depression can be classified into various categories, the first of which we will consider is major depression. This usually presents itself in several occasions throughout a person’s life, called episodes. For the sufferer of major depression, the ability to regulate normal daily activities such as sleeping, eating, and studying is seriously inhibited. When these symptoms last for a period of 2 years, this is called persistent depressive disorder.2
Sometimes a diagnosis of psychotic symptoms plus depression is termed as depression with psychotic features. A person afflicted in this way may hear voices during depressive episodes that do not really exist. Also, such a person frequently senses a distance from reality, sees things that are really not in their view, and may hold to false and irrational, delusional beliefs.
Psychosis is not something that can be treated through reasoning and trying simply to talk things out. Someone suffering from this combination of depression along with psychosis is especially vulnerable in that they may be more likely than most depression sufferers to take their own life or to do harm to others. Medications are available as part of personalized treatment plans that will help to regulate the emotional patterns behavior of such a person while helping them to maintain the maximum level of normalcy in life possible.
Postpartum depression is experienced by some women after giving birth. Though it is normal to experience physical bodily changes that may not be pleasant and hormonal ups and downs, leading to emotional negative and positive reactions, postpartum depression involves more. In addition to the sense of being overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for life and the child that has been brought into it, a woman may lose her own desire to live. This is a serious matter that should be treated with professional consideration.
Postpartum depression can also be treated with medications, but some worry about the slight potential that pregnant women will pass harm onto the unborn child or that new mothers will damage the nursing child through their drug treatment. Many mothers have found cognitive treatment to be especially effective and quite safe. This treatment helps one to identify depressive thoughts and to create new patterns of thinking that are more positive and constructive. This treatment has gained much professional recognition and is highly recommended to all depression sufferers, not just mothers, even when medications are also prescribed.
Another common form of depression is seasonal affective disorder, known as SAD. During the months of the year when days are short and sunlight scarce, more than the weather tends to get gloomy. As some cozy up to the climate changes hoping to enjoy their scarves and winter lattes, others dread this time of year with the knowledge that for some strange reason, their personality seems to drop further into the gutter with each trickle of rain.
Seasonal affective disorder usually lifts in the summer and spring months, when more light can be absorbed and the days are longer to include increased activity. During the winter months, many find light treatment to be beneficial. However, for most this not quite enough. Medications are commonly prescribed and cognitive behavioral therapy is also a good technique in these instances.
Depression can be screened by primary care physicians and diagnosed in just one doctor visit.3 There is no need to feel a level of shame in getting treatment for depression. Doctors understand that depression does not result as a personal flaw, it is a legitimate condition of the mind, and it can be effectively treated, often in relatively simple processes.
1. Szabo, L. USA Today. (2016, January 26) Task Force: Doctors Should Screen All Adults For Depression. Retrieved 1/26/16 from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/01/26/all-adults-screened-for-depression/79347926/.
2. National Institute of Mental Health. Depression- What is Depression? Retrieved 1/26/16 from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml.
3. Mental Health America. Depression Screening. Retrieved 1/26/16 from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-screen/patient-health.