Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 4.7% of all adults over the age of 18 regularly experience feelings of depression. That number increases sharply for individuals who live below the federal poverty line, with 15.8% experiencing depression.
Many overlapping risk factors can lead to developing co-occurring substance use disorders (SUD) and depression. According to research by the Medical University of South Carolina, 16-18% of people with a major depressive disorder are diagnosed with a substance use disorder. The study also reported that “SUDs were particularly common among individuals with bipolar disorder,” with rates as high as 56% for individuals with lifetime SUD.
To be diagnosed with a depressive disorder, the symptoms must be present for a minimum of two weeks. Major depression, also called clinical depression, can manifest in many different ways with side effects that exist along a spectrum. Some people confuse depression with feeling sad or weary, but those feelings are often short-term, lasting only a few days, while depression includes more symptoms and lasts far longer. When left untreated depressive episodes can impact all aspects of daily life and, depending on the severity, may require hospitalization.
The many causes and risk factors for developing depression contribute to the prevalence of the disorder. The cause of the depression will often determine the diagnosis, with the most common risk factors being trauma, chronic stress, genetic predisposition, and medication side effects. Depression plays a significant part in several mental health disorders, including those listed below:
The relationship between SUDs and depressive disorders is complicated. One 2005 study stated that substance use disorder is often caused by self-medicating to decrease or cope with the symptoms of depression. “Compared with individuals with no mood disorders, those with depression were approximately twice as likely, and those with bipolar disorder approximately seven times as likely, to have an SUD.”
Chronic use of certain substances can alter the brain’s physical structure, leading to a higher risk of depression and other mental health disorders. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that in 2015 at least 8.1 million adults “had both a substance use disorder and another mental illness.”
If you or someone you love has a depressive disorder, they will exhibit some or all of the following signs and symptoms.
Although these symptoms must last for over two weeks to be diagnosed as clinical depression, symptoms might lessen or go away entirely before returning after a while. Depression is often a cyclic disorder, especially in the case of bipolar and other conditions that feature periods of mania or mood swings followed by episodes of depressive symptoms.
Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with a depressive disorder. Most people get clinically diagnosed with depression between the ages of 15 and 30. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list the following are some of the risk factors associated with depression:
The treatment for depression usually involves a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and psychotherapy. Lifestyle changes that can help include:
The National Institute of Mental Health lists the following therapies and medications for treating depression:
Another effective treatment for depression is a form of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) that targets specific areas of the brain. Some benefits of ECT include: