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An estimated 17.6 million Americans suffer from Depression each year.

Signs of depression

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, despair and apathy.

According to the findings in “Rising rates of depression in today’s society” by Lambert KG, depression affects up to 1 in 6 people or 17.6 Americans each year.

Depressed persons may feel empty, hopeless, experience weight loss, and lose interests in social activities. Generally, most people go through a period where they feel low because of a particular incident such as failing a test or unable to find employment.

However, when this feeling lingers for an extended period of time, it can lead to a more serious condition known as Major Depressive Disorder.

The following information is taken taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 4th Edition (DSM-IV) and the Mayo Clinic, and some of it is taken ad verbatim:

    Signs of depression

    What are the signs of depression? For a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, a person must have five (or more) of the following symptoms during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous funcitoning; at least one of the symptoms is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure.

    Signs of depression include the following:

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    • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).

    • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation made by others).

    • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.

    • Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.

    • Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).

    • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.

    • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).

    • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others).

    • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.


    Recognizing the signs of depression is the first step towards recovery. The second step is seeking professional help.

    Treatment for major depression varies, but it usually involves a combination of cognitive therapy and medication management.

    Anti-depressants relieve some of the symptoms of depression, but do not cure it. Depression is a serious condition, and medication alone is rarely enough to combat the problem.


    The most common medications used for depression fall in two large categories:

      Serotonin re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): Fluoxetine (Prozac), Citalopram (Celexa), Fluvoxamine (Luvox), Sertraline (Zoloft), and Paroxetine (Paxil).

      Serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), Duloxetine (Cymbalta) and Venlafaxine (Effexor) as some of the most frequently used.

      These medications are not for everyone. Some individuals might experience side effects that might require to try another brand of medications. Less commonly used include: Monoamine oxidase inhibitors, Bupropion (Wellbutrin) and Tricyclics.

      Did you know?

      • In the US alone, 10% of women in the US and 4% of men are on anti-depressants.

        Source: USNews

      • Anti-depressants are the most commonly prescribed medications in the US.

        For the year 2005, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined 2.4 billion drug prescriptions. Of those, 118 million were for anti-depressants.

        Source: CDC

      Psychotherapy is also recommended for the treatement of depression. Depending on the circumstance, and the severity of the signs of depression, the typical number of sessions varies between 8 to 12, and in some situations it can take up to 6 months to see a significant improvement.

      People with depression benefit from support and ‘me’ time for healing. Even if they request to be alone, the fact that they know that you are there for them is already helpful.

      Alternative Medicine

      Omega 3 - Fatty Acids (3,000mg) - Research has shown that Omega 3 can be helpful in reducing the symptoms of depression in on some individuals. Check with your doctor to make sure you get it from a good brand.

      Magnesium - New research published by the "Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (2009)" has shown a decrease of depressive symptoms in people who took magnesium supplements regularly.

        Special note

        Besides conventional therapy and medication management, it is also very helpful to join a support group with people who are going through similar experiencies. If you are not sure where to find one, ask your doctor or therapist.

        If you prefer, you could join a virtual support group and log in anonymously until you feel more comfortable.

        Some support groups include:

        Participating in a support group can raise a person’s awareness, help recognize the early signs of depression and prevent future relapses.

          Additional Tips

          • Stop watching the news! While it is good to be informed, it is not a bad idea to give yourself a break from the daily news. The news is often extremely negative and will get you depressed in no time if you re not careful.

          • If you know someone who has severe depression, help them feel that they matter.

          • Give her/him a sense of purpose. Remind them how meaningful they are, and how much others (family, friends, or you) need them.

          • Help them help someone else. Volunteering for a good cause is an excellent way to help others. It can be anything from helping the homeless to helping save the rainforest. There are thousands of humanitarian organizations that could use some help!

            Related topics

            Please visit the following links:

              Online citations

              Do You Really Need That Antidepressant?Article on the use of ant-depresseants. USNews.

              Depression. Depression (Major Depression). The Mayo-Clinic.

              Major Depression. PubMed Health.

              Anti-depressants. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention.


                American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1994

                Lambert KG. "Rising rates of depression in today's society: Consideration of the roles of effort-based rewards and enhanced resilience in day-to-day functioning". Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2006; 30 (4): 497–510.

                Article updated: December 9, 2012

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