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Depression: Depression & Related Conditions
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The Far Reaches of Depressive Disorders

Rashmi Nemade, Ph.D., edited by Kathryn Patricelli, MA

The depression symptoms that seem be opposites, such as sleeping too much or too little, eating too much or too little, suggest that different people experience depression in different ways. What does not change across individuals is the fact that this condition can seriously impact people's health, relationships, and ability to live their daily lives. Days, months, and even years can be wasted when people remain stuck in a depressive condition.

depressed man outsideWhen people are depressed, they typically do not feel like doing things for themselves. They may not feel like getting out of bed, brushing their teeth, taking a shower, or eating nutritious meals. These neglectful behaviors can lead to the development of other health problems such as cavities, acne, and weight loss or weight gain. If the behaviors continue for long enough, they can have serious, and even life-threatening consequences. For example, not brushing teeth can lead to serious tooth infections, which may eventually affect the brain if left untreated. Weight gain and obesity can lead to a number of health complications such as diabetes, heart disease, and so on.

Relationships at home and work or school can also be affected during a depressive episode. Often, people who are depressed don't have the energy to interact with others in social settings and end up withdrawing from regular social interactions. Then they become socially isolated, which is not a good thing when it comes to depression. It can lead to increased negative feelings and thoughts about oneself and others.  This can then contribute to more frequent or intense depressive episodes. In addition, people who are depressed are typically not fun to be around. A negative mood and behavior can cause friends and loved ones to start avoiding the person.  This then increases the social isolation.

Depression often influences a person's ability to meet their social, work and school responsibilities. If waking up and getting out of bed is a challenge, then going to work may seem a nearly impossible task to accomplish. Numerous studies have tried to estimate the total financial costs of depression on society. One such study found that depression costs employers about $23 billion a year in absenteeism and lost productivity. Depression can also affect people's ability to maintain their daily routines and activities such as answering mail and paying bills. When bills go unpaid and messages go unanswered for long periods of time, consequences result such as termination of heat, electricity and other utilities, and sometimes even repossession of a home.

Behaviors such as not paying attention to hygiene, avoiding social gatherings, and taking a few days off work for mental health purposes are not necessarily serious warning signs of a mood disorder when they happen occasionally and in isolation. However, when such behaviors become frequent, their combined impact can quickly become cumulative and destructive.

Suicide is the most tragic consequence of major depressive disorder. Completed suicides, and suicide attempts are shockingly common among people with depression. For every completed suicide, there are many people who unsuccessfully attempt suicide. Even more people with depression contemplate suicide or entertain thoughts that the world would be better off without them. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 15 and 64 years, and the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States. Furthermore, over 50 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depressive disorder. Because the problem of suicide is so large, and because the devastation that suicide causes families and friends of suicide victims is so overwhelming, no discussion of depression would be complete without an extended discussion of suicide and how to help prevent it from occurring. We discuss suicide in more detail at the end of this center.