Loss, Change & Grief
Depression - General Information 
Journey of Hearts
A Healing Place in CyberSpaceTM
General Information

The Impact - Whom does depression affect?

From adolescents to the elderly, male and female, and in all walks of life. Depression is a common disorder which can affect people of different ages, nationalities and socioeconomic classes. It is estimated that at least 5-6% of the population is suffering from a major depression at any time. Women run a greater risk for developing a depression during their life-time than men, with estimations that 10-25 % of women and 5-12 % of men may experience a clinical depression at some point in their lives.

The first episode of depression frequently occurs between the ages of 15 and 19, with dramatic increases in depression occurring in adolescents, so the teenager talking about suicide, needs to be listened to seriously. Link to Depression with Adolescents. Depression is also found within the older population (over 65) and may be more difficult to discern from the "normal" bodily complaints that go along with aging.

Currently, among the 15- to 19-year olds, suicide is the second leading cause of death (following accidents). Suicide is a real threat with a depressed older person. The older population makes up 12 % of the population, but account for 20 % of all suicides. The risk of committing suicide increases with age! It is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression (listed below) and the warning signs of suicide.

It is estimated that depression and mood disorders affect over 11 million Americans. In addition to the individual human suffering that occurs because of depression or other mood disorders there is also an enormous economic impact of depression. This economic impact is felt by the lack of productivity on the job, or by days of missed work due to depression. The recent estimates for total direct costs of depression are $ 43.7 billion annually.

The Diagnosis - How does depression present?

Depression is one of the most common disorders and one that is frequently missed or overlooked by health care professionals. More than half of people with depression or other mood disorders present to a Primary Care Provider first, rather than consulting with a psychiatrist or mental health professional, with estimations that 6-8 % of patients being seen by a Primary Care Provider may be depressed. The initial presenting complaints may be vague including: headache, insomnia, change in appetite, weakness, problems concentrating or diarrhea. These symptoms often require a medical analysis, to determine that there is not an underlying medical condition . See below for list of common signs and symptoms.

Depression is more easily recognized by women. For men, frequently they will feel fatigued, having problems with concentration or memory, or problems with insomnia, and admit to being stressed, but often not recognize they are depressed.

Depression and mood disorders may also be missed by family members. If you or anyone you know seems to fall into the category of depression, consider taking one of the quizzes on the other depression pages and contact your health care provider or social worker to arrange for further evaluation.

The Diagnosis - Who finds depression?

It is estimated that only half of mental disorders are properly diagnosed by a primary care physician. The reasons for the missed diagnoses are complex. Depression and mood disorders still have a high social stigma for patients, so they are less ready to admit that they may be feeling something that is psychologically based preferring to believe that there is something physically (or somatically) wrong with them. It is more socially acceptable (and acceptable within the work setting) to take time off for being sick, but it is not for being incapacitated from depression.

Other reasons for the missed diagnoses may be due to the training we receive in medical school. We are taught to rule out disease processes. Frequently, I will run a battery of tests and x-rays for complaints of fatigue or weakness or "just not feeling right," only to prove what I had suspected in the first place, that it was depression or stress. The tests are run for two purposes. The first, medical --to make sure that it is not some abnormal presentation of thyroid disease, heart disease or diabetes. The second, to convince the patient that there is nothing medically wrong, that they may be depressed or stressed.

Depression and mood disorders may also be missed by family members. Which is why we need to make sure that the general public recognizes the common signs and symptoms.

Recognizing Depression

Friends and family members may be the first to notice signs of depression (although may not recognize what they are seeing as depression). If so, it is important to encourage the person to find resources that will help them cope, and if debilitating enough,  making an appointment to be evaluated by a counselor or to be checked by a physician.
In order for people to be familiar with what to look for in depression, in themselves or in others, two lists of signs and symptoms are presented, as different ways of determining depression.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Depression:

Signs - Do you, or anyone you know have any of the following signs?

Symptoms - Psychological and Physical Signs and Symptoms

Psychological symptoms: Feelings, thoughts and behavior

Physical or "somatic" Symptoms

If you are feeling like harming yourself or someone else, or are feeling depressed, helpless or hopeless, Call 911, your local suicide hot-line, or Crisis Intervention line, located in the Yellow Pages, or contact the Samaritans via e-mail at:

Call someone--a friend, or family member, your clergy or physician. Look in the Yellow pages under Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists, if you feel you may need immediate professional assistance.

If you or anyone you know seems to be experiencing depression, consider taking one of the quizzes on the other depression pages, Self Assessment Quiz or  Wakefield Questionnaire and contact your health care provider, counselor, clergy member or social worker and get the help you need.

Last updated October 5, 1998
All material, unless otherwise specified, is copyrighted 1997 by Journey of Hearts A Healing Place in CyberSpace. We invite you to share the information on this site with others who may benefit, but ask that you share from the heart only and not for profit.
To contact the Domain Designer email to email@kirstimd.com  To return to home page.