1 in 3 Americans suffer from depression. Is someone you know among them?
4 MINUTE READ
Here’s what to look for and how to get help.
Licensed professional counselors Heather Altman and Kacey Batushansky want people struggling with depression to know that there’s always somewhere they can get help.
They’ve been spreading this message more than ever during the ongoing pandemic. They’ve been seeing more clients whose depression has been triggered by today’s uncertainty, unrest and lack of control.
Their clients are not alone. Depression among adults tripled in early 2020—and worsened further still in 2021, according to research by the Boston University School of Public Health. Pre-pandemic, depression affected 8.5% nationwide. In 2021, it soared to nearly 33%, affecting 1 in 3 American adults. Key drivers were low household income, not being married and having multiple pandemic stressors, such as fewer in-person interactions, COVID-19 deaths among close friends and loved ones, job losses, childcare and economic challenges, leaving school campuses, and more.
What is depression?
While many of us have experienced sadness and weariness, depression is much more than feeling down or having a bad mood. It is a common but serious mental health condition that affects how you feel, think and act – and even your physical health. According to the American Psychiatric Association, symptoms of depression beyond feeling sad may include:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain not connected to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Altman and Batushansky – both clinical directors at Oaks Integrated Care, a New Jersey-based mental health and addiction treatment provider – point out that the key difference between simply feeling sad and having depression is the duration of the symptoms. “A person must experience symptoms for two weeks to have a diagnosis of clinical depression,” said Batushansky.
To recognize depression in your family or friends, pay attention to:
- Changes in patterns. If someone used to act one way and now suddenly is behaving differently, this is a clear sign that something is wrong. For example, take note of a friend or family members who used to cope well but is now yelling at work or not sleeping regularly, said Batushansky.
- The breadth of problems. “When we look at the severity of depression, we consider how many ‘life domains’ – work, home life, school – that the disease disrupts,” said Altman.
- A person’s age. Teens and adults can show different signs of depression, Batushansky said. Adolescents may be more likely to say they’re in crisis, be irritable, lie, experience physical problems like upset stomachs, or see their grades suffer.
Depression arises from many causes
With a disease as complex as depression, several factors can play a role. Differences in brain chemicals, genetics, personality and environmental factors like exposure to violence or poverty can influence if someone gets depression. Traumatic events like the ongoing pandemic can also trigger depression.
Treatment for depression comes in many forms
If you start to recognize depression in a loved one, the first step is having a conversation.
“Mental health is something you should always talk about,” said Altman. “If someone has a persistent cough, you don’t wait to ask about their health until they get pneumonia. Mental health shouldn’t wait until it’s a crisis.”
When having these talks, try to normalize and validate a person’s behavior. “For example, you can say ‘I’m concerned you don’t enjoy playing football like you used to.’ Or, ‘I’m concerned you’ve been sleeping more than normal,” said Batushansky.
Professional help is often needed to treat depression. According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is among the most treatable of mental health conditions, with 80 to 90 percent of people responding well to treatment.
Treatment usually falls into two categories:
- Psychotherapy (also called “talk therapy”)
- Medications that can improve how the brain uses certain chemicals that control mood or stress
At Oaks Integrated Care, treatment for depression ranges from individual and group therapies to more intensive programs that meet daily. They also offer case management services, which includes connecting clients with psychiatrists who can prescribe medications and coordinating their care so they can attend their therapy appointments.
Asking for help can be challenging, but you are not alone. Visit or call Horizon Behavioral Health to help you navigate the support you need at 1-800-626-2212 (TTY 711), 24/7. If you are having an urgent mental health crisis, call 911 or visit an emergency room as soon as possible.
Oaks Integrated Care is independent from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.
Horizon Health News is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.