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What is Depression?  
 
You're not alone ...
 
Depression is a terrible problem. It affects five to seven percent of the adult population in the United States at any point in time. Over a lifetime about 15 to 20% of the population will have at least one major depressive episode. About twice as many women as men report experiencing depression.

The rate of depression has increased dramatically since World War II. The World Health Organization says depression is "among the leading causes of disability worldwide" and it is the second largest disease burden for 15 to 44 year-olds; by 2020 it is expected to be the second largest disease in the world.

Many famous people have had depression: Buzz Aldrin, Dorothy Hamill, J.K. Rowlings, Terry Bradshaw, Mike Wallace and Tipper Gore to name just a few.



Everyone is sad and emotionally down sometimes. We are disappointed when we don't get the job we interviewed for and we experience a terrible sense of loss when we lose a loved one. Most of us recover from these in a reasonable amount of time. Even if we have been hit pretty hard most of us are usually able to resume our work and interactions with others before long.

Depression, major depressive disorder (MDD), clinical depression, or the "down" side of bipolar disorder are different. These conditions can be incapacitating, disturb your sleep, impact your relationships with others and cause physical pain. About two-thirds of the time it involves feeling very stressed or what clinicians call "anxiety disorder". Depression usually lasts for more than two weeks and untreated can persist for five or six months. If you've had one episode of MDD there is a 50% likelihood that you will have a second; if you have a second episode it is about 70 to 80% likely that you will have another.

The most common treatment for depression is to have your personal physician prescribe an anti-depressant. 70% to 80% of those who seek treatment get help this way. This is not always the best approach because:

About one third of us don't respond to anti-depressants

Many people experience annoying side effects from anti-depressants

Most people need to take an anti-depressant for three to six months to get completely through their depression and many quit before they should

Anti-depressants just mask symptoms, don't provide protection against relapse.

The best treatment for depression is a combination of an anti-depressant and psychotherapy, in particular Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Usually you will get help with medications from a psychiatrist and therapy from a clinical psychologist, marriage and family therapist or a clinical social worker. Medications will sometimes work faster than therapy but the therapy will have a lasting impact that the anti-depressant won't - it will be less likely that you will get depressed again if you complete a course of cognitive behavioral therapy. There is a large volume of research that shows that CBT is particularly effective in treating depression and reducing relapse -- just reading the book Feeling Good by David D. Burns, M.D. has been shown to significantly reduce depression.

How to Recover