Fact Files

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the most common illness worldwide and the leading cause of disability. It is estimated that 350 million people are affected by depression globally.

Fast facts on depression:

  • Symptoms include lack of joy and reduced interest in things that used to bring a person happiness.

  • Life events, such as bereavement, produce mood changes that can usually be distinguished from the features of depression.

  • The causes of depression are not fully understood but are likely to be a complex combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychosocial factors.

  • Depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistently low mood and a feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It is a persistent problem, not a passing one, lasting on average 6 to 8 months.

  • Diagnosis of depression starts with a consultation with a doctor or mental health specialist. It is important to seek the help of a health professional to rule out different causes of depression, ensure an accurate differential diagnosis, and secure safe and effective treatment.

Depression is different from the fluctuations in mood that people experience as a part of normal life. Temporary emotional responses to the challenges of everyday life do not constitute depression. Depression is also referred to as Unipolar Mood disorder to differentiate it from Bipolar Mood disorder which has alternating cycles of Depression along with Manic [euphoric mood] state.

Signs and symptoms

  • persistent low mood

  • reduced interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed

  • unintentional weight loss or weight gain, excessively low or high appetite

  • insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)

  • psychomotor agitation, for example, restlessness, pacing up and down

  • delayed psychomotor skills, for example, dullness, slowed movement and speech

  • fatigue or loss of energy

  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt

  • impaired ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions

  • recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or attempt at suicide

Depression is a treatable mental illness. There are three components to the management of depression:

  • Psychotherapy, with a licensed and qualified psychologist, usually with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

  • Support, ranging from discussing practical solutions and contributing stresses, to educating family members.

Drug treatment, specifically antidepressants.