Facts About Depression: Breaking Stigma

Reviewed by Rashonda Douthit, LCSW

Published 01/07/2021

Depression is a common mental health condition. However, there are many misconceptions about depression. It's important to break the stigma surrounding mental health conditions and disorders to increase understanding and access to support. Here are some facts about depression that can help you better understand the condition, whether you believe that you may have it yourself or simply want to learn more, and how to find support for depression.

What Is Depression?

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Depression is a mental health condition characterized by several symptoms. Two of the most notable depression markers are a depressed or low mood and the loss of interest in activities one used to enjoy. A lot of people don’t realize that there’s not only one type of depression. Instead, there are different types of depressive disorders or types of depression, each of which has different diagnosis criteria. To get a formal diagnosis of a depressive disorder or any other mental health condition, you must see a professional who is qualified to diagnose mental disorders.

Types Of Depression

In the DSM-5, different kinds of depression are categorized under the category of depressive disorders. There are also disorders, such as Bipolar disorder, that include periods of depression as diagnostic criteria but are under different categories. Here are some of the common types of depression a person might experience:

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Major depressive disorder is a common depressive disorder characterized by  depressed mood and loss of interest in activities a person used to enjoy. Here are common symptoms affiliated with major depressive disorder:

  • Low or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities one typically enjoys or used to enjoy
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Restlessness
  • Hypersomnia or insomnia (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Excessive crying
  • Emotional numbness
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

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The persistent depressive disorder differs from major depressive disorder in that it is persistent and must last for at least two years or longer for a diagnosis to occur. It is often considered chronic low-level depression. Here are common symptoms affiliated with PDD:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Hypersomnia or insomnia (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder is actually considered a type of major depressive disorder that occurs on a seasonal basis. Here are the symptoms one may experience during an episode of depression with seasonal affective disorder:

  • Low or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities one typically enjoys
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue or restlessness
  • Hypersomnia or insomnia (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble focusing or concentration
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Excessive crying
  • Emotional numbness

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

If someone has PMDD, the following symptoms will occur before one's menstrual period and discontinue at the start of a menstrual period or soon after.

  • Depressed mood
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Hypersomnia or insomnia (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Increased anxiety, panic attacks, or nervousness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Physical PMS symptoms, such as bloating and cramping

It is not the same as "regular" or standard PMS, and the symptoms may impact a person's ability to function at work or school. It can also impact interpersonal relationships.

Postpartum Depression

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Women who give birth experience may experience the "baby blues," but postpartum depression is more severe. Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Low or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities one typically enjoys or used to enjoy
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue or restlessness
  • Hypersomnia or insomnia (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Feeling worthless, guilty, or hopeless
  • Emotional numbness
  • Crying excessively or without reason
  • Feeling like a bad mother
  • Feeling extreme anxiety about the baby
  • Feeling detached from one's child

Postpartum depression is a devastating challenge to face, but the good news is that, as with other forms of depression, it's treatable. If you have postpartum depression, you aren't alone. It's said that one in eight women who give birth will face postpartum depression.

Other Disorders

There are other disorders categorized under depressive disorders in the DSM-5. Again, bipolar disorder is another condition that includes periods of depression in the criteria for diagnosis. Bipolar disorder differs from disorders under depressive disorders because a person with bipolar disorder experiences depression and mania or hypomania. Complicated grief or bereavement is another thing that may cause depression. If you believe that you may have a form of depression or another mental health disorder, it's important to seek a formal diagnosis.

Statistics On Depression

  • Comorbidities in depression are common. Common comorbidities for depressive disorders or depression include anxiety disorders, substance use disorder, and personality disorders.
  • Statistically, women are more likely to experience depression than men are, though people of any gender can face depression.
  • The onset of depression can occur at any time, but the average age range for the onset of depression is one's late teens to mid-twenties.
  • A number of celebrities have spoken up about their experiences with depression, including Lady Gaga and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Teen Depression Facts

  • According to the CDC, 3.2% of children and teens from 3 to 17 years old or approximately 1.9 million children and teens aged 3 to 17 in the United States are diagnosed with depression.
  • According to the CDC, 73.8% of kids and teens aged 3 to 17 who have depression have anxiety. Comorbid conditions are common in those with depression.
  • Treatment for depression can help teens with depression.

Mental illness is as serious in teens as it is in anyone else. Depression isn't interchangeable with the word "sadness," It is not a phase or a matter of one's attitude. It's essential to be supportive and nonjudgmental of a teenager with depression.

Risk Factors

Anyone can have depression. There are risk factors that may contribute to the development of depressive disorders, including:

  • Family history of depressive disorders
  • Personal history of another physical or mental health condition
  • Stress, trauma, or major life changes
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Lack of social connection or social support
  • Sleep disorders

Support For Depression

There are many ways to get support for depression, both in the long-term and short-term.

Support Groups are one excellent way to get peer support for depression. You can find a support group that meets locally, or you can find one that meets online. Though support groups are not a form of treatment and are not the same as group therapy, it can be both comforting and helpful to meet people going through the same thing.

Online Forums are another way to meet people going through the same thing. Like support groups, online forums aren't often run by medical or mental health professionals like group therapy, but they can be beneficial, especially if you feel alone.

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Counseling And Therapy are both depression treatment and a form of support. Therapy modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT or interpersonal therapy (IPT) are common, evidence-based ways to treat depression.

Hotlines such as the national suicide prevention lifeline are usable for anyone who is struggling. It is a way to get immediate support from a volunteer, though it is not a replacement for ongoing support or medical and mental health care.

How To Find Counseling For Depression

If you have depression, think that you might, or if you have a child or teen who has depression, you might be wondering how to find support in the form of a counselor or therapist. There are a number of routes you can take. Here are some ways to find a therapist or counselor:

  • Ask your or your child's primary care provider for a referral to a counselor or therapist
  • Contact your insurance company or visit their website to see what they offer
  • Use an online mental health provider directory or search tool
  • If you're a student, or if your child is a student, consider using on-campus resources if they are available
  • Look for a community center in your area that offers counseling services

You can also consider using an online counseling website like BetterHelp that pairs you with a licensed mental health professional. This is a great option because it allows you to access counseling from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. It's often more affordable than traditional in-person therapy without insurance, and you'll be connected with a therapist rather than having to spend months searching on your own. Additionally, it is easier to switch therapists if the first you see isn't a good fit in many cases when you use online counseling services.

Take The Mind Diagnostics Depression Test

Do you think that you might have depression? If so, you can take the Mind Diagnostics test to learn more about your symptoms and gain insight into what you're going through. The Mind Diagnostics depression test isn't a replacement for a diagnosis, and it's only to be used if you're 18 or older. Make sure to contact a medical or mental health professional for an appropriate evaluation and diagnosis. The Mind Diagnostics depression test is free, fast, and confidential, and it might just be the first step toward getting the support you need and deserve.

Click here to take the Mind Diagnostics depression test.