Depression (ABCT Fact Sheet)

Depression is a common psychological problem, experienced by many people at some time during their lives. One member of most families has experienced an episode of depression severe enough to require formal treatment. Depressed mood is costly to individuals and society as a whole, both economically as well as in terms of quality of life.

The primary feature of depression is a sad mood state, which, in its most severe form, is experienced as a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair. When people experience depressed mood, it is common for them also to experience a decrease in social activities, problems with relationships, and an increase in crying or “a desire to cry even if you cannot get the tears out.”

There are also several cognitive features of depression that may include a loss of concentration and memory; a belief that you are becoming worthless; a belief that things cannot be made better, have gotten bad, and will get worse; and a focus on negative things about yourself without enough attention on positive things about yourself.

The biological characteristics include disrupted sleep (especially trouble falling sleep and a pattern of waking up very early in the morning), loss of appetite, loss of sexual desire or lack of interest in sexual activity, and fatigue or tiredness during the day. It is also important to know that depression may happen along with increased anxiety and feelings of anger or hostility. In about 10% of cases, depression will be followed by problems with alcohol or drugs.

Depression severe enough to require formal treatment occurs in about 6% of the women and 3% of the men in this country. Depression can occur, although at lower rates, among children. During adolescence, the rates gradually increase, so that by age 14 or 15 they equal those of adults. Among the elderly, the rates decrease slightly, but it remains a frequent and serious problem among this age group.

A publication from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies

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