Depression takes a toll on our country: At any given time, it affects nearly 11 million Americans of both sexes, all ages and all ethnic backgrounds. If untreated, depression leads to suicide in about 15% of the people it affects, and is associated with chemical substance abuse in many other individuals.

Defining the Disorder
Basically, depression is a mood disorder, one with which virtually everyone is familiar. According to Stewart H. Reiter, M.D. clinical director of Summit Psychiatric and Counseling Associates in Summit, New Jersey, depression can be “ a very normal and natural mood that we all experience from time to time”.

Almost all of us have, at some point, felt depressed over such stressful events as job change, illness, or a death in the family. Usually depression at this level is not long lived or severe. It may temporarily affect concentration and performance at work. But depression, as most people know it, isn't a persistent state that results in dysfunction. Depression becomes problematic when it persists.

According to the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM IV R), major depressive disorder is characterized by the following symptoms, which must be present for at least two weeks:

1. Depressed mood most of the day;
2. Loss of interest, or pleasure, in all, or almost all, activities most of the day;
3. Significant weight loss or weight gain when not dieting;
4. Sleep disturbances;
5. Psychomotor agitation, (excessive hand wring–ing) or retardation (moving or speaking slowly);
6. Fatigue or loss of energy;
7. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt;
8. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
9. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts.

The Good News
Correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help between 80% and 90% of those suffering from depression, according to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH). Researchers have learned that psychoactive drugs can combat depression in the majority of individuals. In addition, new short term psychotherapies used in conjunction with antidepressant medications are providing relief for more than 80% of those suffering from mild to moderate depression.

If you have questions call Cascade EAP for assistance or an appointment.

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