While it is common for everyone to feel down or sad at times, a person whose symptoms last for more than two weeks may be having a major depressive episode, according to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). An estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2016, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
The treatments for depression can vary and include medications, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. "Often the most difficult cases of depression can be effectively treated," said Michael Golinkoff, Ph.D., M.B.A., president of PerformCare, a managed behavioral health organization and part of the AmeriHealth Caritas Family of Companies. "However, the sooner the treatment can begin, the better it will work."
Someone may be experiencing depression and not realize they have it, as the symptoms vary. About 37 percent of adults with a major depressive episode did not receive treatment. It's also important to point out that without proper treatment, the symptoms can get worse.
According to SAMSHA, some of the warning signs of depression include
- Sadness, anxiety, or feeling "empty"
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Fatigue or decreased energy level
- Change in appetite
- At the extreme, thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.
The warning signs of depression should never be ignored. Anyone with these symptoms should speak with their primary care provider or a behavior health specialist. Loved ones or friends who exhibit these symptoms should be encouraged to do the same.
"If we feel physically ill we get medical treatment without giving it a second thought," added Dr. Golinkoff. "We should think of mental illness in much the same way."