Depressive illnesses are serious but treatable disorders
  • Depressive illnesses are more than temporary "blue" moods or periods of grief after a loss.

  • Symptoms of depression affect thoughts, feelings, body, and behaviors.

  • Without treatment, the symptoms can last for months, years, or a lifetime.

Depressive illnesses take a staggering toll:
  • They cause great pain to 15 million american's.

  • The lives of families and friends are affected, often seriously disrupted.

  • They hurt the economy, costing an estimated $30 billion in 1990.

Symptoms of depression can include
  • Persistent sad or "empty" mood

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities, including sex

  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"

  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia, early-morning waking, or oversleeping)

  • Eating disturbances (loss of appetite and weight, or weight gain)

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness

  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts

  • Irritability

  • Excessive crying

  • Chronic aches and pains that don't respond to treatment

Many do not recognize their illness

Nearly two-thirds of depressed people do not get appropriate treatment because their symptoms:

  • Are not recognized.

  • Are blamed on personal weakness.

  • Are so disabling that people cannot reach out for help.

  • Are misdiagnosed and wrongly treated.

Depressive illnesses come in various forms
  • Some depressive episodes occur suddenly for no apparent reason.

  • Some are triggered by a stressful experience.
    Some people have one episode in a lifetime; others, recurrent episodes.

  • Some people's symptoms are so severe they are unable to function as usual.

  • Others have ongoing, chronic symptoms that do not interfere with functioning, but keep them from feeling really well.

  • Some people have bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive illness). They experience cycles of terrible "lows" and inappropriate "highs."

Symptoms of mania can include
  • Excessively "high" mood

  • Irritability

  • Decreased need for sleep

  • Increased energy and activity

  • Increased talking, moving, and sexual activity

  • Racing thoughts

  • Disturbed ability to make decisions

  • Grandiose notions

  • Being easily distracted

In the workplace, depression often may be recognized by
  • Decreased productivity

  • Morale problems

  • Lack of cooperation

  • Safety problems, accidents

  • Absenteeism

  • Frequent complaints of being tired all the time

  • Complaints of unexplained aches and pains

  • Alcohol and drug abuse

Get an accurate diagnosis

A thorough diagnosis is needed if five or more of the symptoms of depression or mania persist for more than two weeks, or are interfering with work or family life. A good diagnosis involves a complete physical checkup and family history of health problems.

Most people can be helped quickly

With available treatment, 80 percent of the people with serious depression--even those with the most severe forms--can improve significantly. Symptoms can be relieved, usually in a matter of weeks.

There are effective medications and psychological treatments that often are used in combination. In severe depression, medication is usually required.

A number of short-term talk therapies to treat clinical depression have been developed in recent years.

Several types of medications are available, none of them habit-forming. People with severe depression respond more rapidly and more consistently to medication. Those with recurring depression, including bipolar disorder, may need to stay on medication to prevent or lessen further episodes.

Early intervention may lessen severity of symptoms and shorten the episode.

Individuals respond differently to treatment. If after several weeks symptoms have not improved, the treatment plan should be re-evaluated.

Costs of depression can be reduced:
  • When diagnosed early in the course of the illness,

  • depressed people usually can be treated on an

  • outpatient basis and improve productivity, avoid lost

  • work time, and reduce high costs for:

  • Prolonged treatment or hospitalization

  • Treatment of other physical and mental disorders

  • resulting from untreated depression.

Help can be received from:
  • Physicians

  • Mental health specialists

  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs)

  • Health maintenance organizations

  • Community mental health centers

  • Hospital departments of psychiatry or outpatient

  • psychiatric clinics

  • University- or medical school-affiliated programs

  • State hospital outpatient clinics

  • Family service/social agencies

  • Private clinics and facilities

  • Support and self-help groups

For more information, contact:

Your doctor

Your school / university / private practice counsellor

The Mental Health Unit at the hospital