You’ve just been diagnosed with depression. You may feel as if you are the only person in the world with this problem. That kind of feeling is just one symptom of the illness.
Of course, you aren’t alone. Nearly 17 million adults in the U.S. suffer from depression. It affects people of all ages, races, ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic classes – even those who seem to have everything in life.
Antidepressants, especially when combined with talk therapy, generally help people recover from depression. Symptoms begin to improve within weeks for the majority of people taking antidepressants. And people who take antidepressants long-term -- up to 36 months -- have a relapse rate of only 18% compared to 40% for those who do not.
But if they work so well, why do so many people stop taking antidepressants within a few weeks of starting them? Or skip doses when they start to feel better?
Terry Bradshaw, a Hall of Fame quarterback and well-known sportscaster, struggled for years with crying jags and breakdowns before medication and therapy helped relieve his pain. British comedian and actor Hugh Laurie, best known in the U.S. as TV’s Dr. House, realized he was depressed during a charity stock car race when he felt utterly bored even as cars crashed all around him. The famed author of the Harry Potter novels, J.K. Rowling, dealt with crushing depression and suicidal thoughts after a failed marriage in her 20s.
You may wonder how to move forward with such a difficult and painful illness weighing you down. This article can help you understand how depression affects you and provides tips to help with your recovery.
What Triggers Depression
Health experts don’t know exactly what causes depression, although a person’s genetics, environment, and brain chemistry probably all come into play. “Stress early in life, such as neglect or childhood trauma, can also set you up for becoming depressed in response to later stress,” says Jon Allen, PhD, senior staff psychologist at the Menninger Clinic in Houston.
Often, major life events such as job loss or the breakup of a marriage, drug or alcohol abuse, or chronic stress triggers an episode of depression. “If someone has had an episode of major depression, it’s likely that stressful life events occurred prior to the depression,” Allen says.
“How you perceive these events, and how you feel about yourself in relation to them, can have a big impact on your vulnerability for depression,” he says. “Feelings of failure and loss and feeling trapped in a difficult situation can lead to a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.”