Depression is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch. It’s a serious mental health condition that requires understanding, treatment and a good recovery plan. With early detection, diagnosis and a treatment plan consisting of medication, psychotherapy and lifestyle choices, many people get better. But left untreated, depression can be devastating, both for the people who have it and for their families.
Some people have only one episode in a lifetime, but for most people depression recurs. Without treatment, episodes may last a few months to several years. People with severe depression can feel so hopeless that they become a risk for suicide.
An estimated 16 million American adults—almost 7% of the population—had at least 1 major depressive episode last year. People of all ages and all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can experience depression, but it does affect some groups of people more than others. Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression, and young adults aged 18–25 are 60% more likely to have depression than people aged 50 or older.
Getting a comprehensive evaluation is important. Underlying medical issues that can mimic a major depressive episode, side effects of other medications (like beta blockers or antihypertensives) or any other medical causes need to be ruled out. Understanding life stressors and prior responses to treatment effort can help shape a good treatment plan. Understanding how any co-occurring conditions fit into the diagnostic picture also informs treatment options.