According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression affects almost 16 million men and women in the US. The study found that the prevalence of depression in youth ages 12-17 increased from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.3% in 2014. The prevalence of depression among adults aged 18-25 increased from 8.8% to 9.6% during the time span. Yet the study also found that “there hasn’t been much change in the proportion of teens and young adults seeking mental health treatment” (APA, 2016). One of the main reasons why I think people don’t seek treatment is because they don’t have the right kind of information, and so misunderstand what depression is. Some people use the term in a very loose way, which makes it hard to know how serious the problem is.
Some might think having depression means one should sit in a dark room crying. Being sad is just one symptom out of many and one symptom is not enough to qualify for a Major Depressive Disorder. Throughout the year, I have worked with children, teens, and adults who suffer from depression. Each individual meets the criteria for Major Depressive Disorder, but not everyone shows the same set of symptoms. Some people get easily agitated or angry. Some people have low energy, poor concentration, or poor appetite. Some people have a hard time thinking positively about themselves, others, and the world. Some may express feelings like guilt or boredom. Many describe the experience as being in a black hole, feeling numb, or empty. Some have a hard time sleeping or sleep too much to avoid being in the world. Many complain about not being able to enjoy all the things that they used to love. Some find it just too hard to keep up with school, work, or relationships. Sadly, people can’t generally snap out of depression. Symptoms may come and go. Without treatment, each episode could get longer and the time between the episodes could become shorter.
If you have experienced some of these symptoms, it is time to start looking for help. Depression is a serious but treatable condition that requires the right kind of care and attention from mental health professionals. Getting help does not mean you are weak – in fact depression can affect anyone. The best time to be in treatment is before any current symptoms get worse. Remember, you are not alone. There are sixteen million people just like you. The good news is that getting help now can make life easier, and more enjoyable.