Big Think’s recent article The Most Debilitating Disease in the World Isn’t Just in Your Head discussed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement that Major Depressive Disorder, more commonly known as depression is now the leading cause of poor health and disability in the world, with an 18% spike in diagnoses over the past few years. According to the article, depression affects more than 300 million people across the globe and between 2-7% of individuals suffering from depression will go on to commit suicide. Additionally, depression higher rates of occurrence in developed nations than in the developing world, which begs the questions of whether it’s only the detection rates that are higher in the developed world, and whether there are even more undiagnosed cases out there. With these facts, it may be surprising to learn that the typical government only allocates 3% of its health budget toward mental health, but for every dollar spent in treatment and prevention of clinical depression four dollars of economic activity are gained back (Hendricks, 2017).
As mental health practitioners, we know the effects of depression on the individual are dire, described as: “The self-fueling despair, the utter hopelessness, the isolation it can produce, the inability to find any reason to carry on, or any reason to have been.” The article also brings to attention the link between depression and economics. Per the article, an estimated trillion dollars are lost due to depression every year. Depression is unlike previous leading causes can’t necessarily be detected by the naked eye, and due to the still present stigma around mental illness, there is an added layer of difficulty to treatment (Hendricks, 2017).
What exactly is depression? According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the following are the criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), as noted in simplified list form from www.healthyplace.com:
The occurrence of one or more major depressive episodes. Symptoms of a major depressive episode include the following:
- Depressed mood
- Anhedonia (diminished loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities)
- Significant weight or appetite disturbance (read more about: Depression and Weight Gain, Weight Loss)
- Sleep disturbance
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation (a speeding or slowing of muscle movement)
- Loss of energy or fatigue
- Feelings of worthlessness (low self-esteem)
- Diminished ability to think, concentrate and make decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
- Longstanding interpersonal rejection ideation (i.e. others would be better off without me); specific suicide plan; suicide attempt
In addition to the above DSM criteria for a major depressive episode, the episode must:
- Be at least two weeks long
- Cause significant distress or severely impact social, occupational or other important life areas
- Not be precipitated by drug use
- Not meet the criteria for another mental disorder like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
- Not be better explained by bereavement (such as the loss experienced after a death)
Major depressive disorder can be rated mild, moderate or severe. The DSM also recognizes MDD may occur with psychotic symptoms. When the MDD continues for more than two years, the DSM labels it chronic depression or dysthymia (Tracy, 2016).
The WHO has launched a campaign calling for initiatives, campaigns, and actions by states, NGOs and community groups to help fight depression, and you can find out more information here: http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2017/campaign-essentials/en/. However, if you find the symptoms above looking familiar, you may consider reaching out for help. It may not be easy, but there are methods for treatment, which include talk therapy, medication or some form of both which can help ease the suffering and get you back to living your life. In spite of the stigma attached, remember, depression is treatable.
Hendricks, S. (2017, May 8). The Most Debilitating Disease in the World Isn’t Just in Your Head. Retrieved from: http://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/the-most-debilitating-disease-in-the-world-isnt-just-in-your-head
Tracy, N. (2016, June 15). MDD: DSM Criteria for Major Depressive Disorder. Retrieved from: http://www.healthyplace.com/depression/major-depression/mdd-dsm-criteria-for-major-depressive-disorder/