What is Major Depressive Disorder?
Major depression is a common and serious medical illness affecting more than 13 million Americans, or approximately 6.6 percent of the population in a given year. Unlike the normal ups and downs of everyday life, Major Depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with an individual’s thoughts, behavior, mood, and even physical health. Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. often impairing social, academic and work functioning and causing significant emotional distress. Depression is the most predominant illness within the mental health arena.
Women are almost twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. However, some experts feel that depression in men is significantly under-reported. Major depression can occur at any age, including childhood, the teenage years and adulthood. Major depression has no racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic boundaries. About two-thirds of those who experience an episode of depression will have at least one other episode in their lives. It is not unusual for depression sufferers to have more than one episode in any given year.
Major depression, also known as unipolar depression, is only one type of depressive disorder. Other depressive disorders include dysthymia (a type of chronic depression) and bipolar depression (the depressed phase of bipolar disorder or manic depression). Individuals suffering from bipolar disorder experience both depression and mania in a cyclical fashion. Mania often involves abnormally and persistently elevated mood or irritability, elevated activity, grandiosity, rapid speech and racing thoughts.