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Depression Can Strike Anyone

With the recent publicity surrounding the depression of celebrities such as A.J. McLean of the Backstreet Boys, Janet Jackson and Rosie O’Donnell, the myth that depression only strikes a certain type of person has been shattered. "The reality is that approximately 20 million Americans suffer from clinical depression each year," states Craig M. Wax, D.O., an osteopathic family physician from Mullica Hill, NJ.

Women are twice as likely to experience depression than men. And, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 2.5 percent of children and nearly 8.3 percent of adolescents in the United States suffer from depression. Dr. Wax believes that the biggest challenge in the fight against depression is reaching out to everyone who needs help. In fact, only half of all cases are recognized and treated. "In order to fight depression, you must know the main types of depression and the signs and symptoms associated with them," he says.

To begin with, there are three main types of depression: major depression, dysthymia and bipolar disorder (otherwise known as manic depression).

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, major depression affects approximately 15 percent of Americans at one point during their lives. It can affect an individual’s eating or sleeping habits and can be a chronic, recurring illness.

Dysthymia is categorized by milder, persistent symptoms that can last for years at a time. Individuals with dysthymia are able to complete their daily tasks, but feel as if they are not functioning at their full capacity. It is estimated that nearly 10 million Americans suffer from dysthymia each year.

While less common (affecting one percent of Americans), bipolar disorder can consist of repeat episodes of major depression and highs known as mania. The effects of bipolar disorder can include irritability, abnormally elevated mood with a decreased need for sleep, excessive talking and impulsive and/or dangerous behavior.

Dr. Wax suggests looking for these symptoms to help determine whether your loved one suffers from depression:

1. Persistent sad, anxious, or empty feelings

2. Loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities

3. Changes in appetite or weight

4. Substance abuse

5. Disturbed sleep

6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt

7. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

As the symptoms of depression can be fatal, it is vital that an individual suffering from depression seeks treatment. "Other than dysthymia, in most cases, depression will not go away on its own," states Dr. Wax "Treatment for depression can consist of antidepressant medicines, psychotherapy or a combination of both."

Support groups, such as the Auxiliary to the American Osteopathic Association (AAOA) and the Yellow Ribbon Program join in the efforts to address the issues surrounding depression and the prevention of suicide among people of all ages.

The Yellow Ribbon Program was created by Dale and Dar Emme after the suicide of their son in 1994. Since many find it difficult to ask for help, the Emmes created Yellow Ribbon cards that are given to everyone they speak with. If a person feels that life is hopeless, he or she can give the card to a family member, friend or teacher as a sign that help is needed.

This much-needed program has distributed more than 4.5 million cards—all strictly by request. According to the Emmes, the program has been credited for saving 2,500 lives, including an 85-year-old grandmother.

While medication and support groups can be vital to battling with depression, so too is the support of loved ones and friends, stresses Dr. Wax. "If someone you know is depressed, don’t be afraid to tell them on a routine basis that you love them, that you care and that you are there to support them," suggests Dr. Wax. In some cases, this can mean the difference between life and death."

Craig M. Wax, DO, LLC of Mullica Hill, NJ provides information on health, nutrition, family medicine, preventive medicine, wellness, natural treatments, alternative medicine, integrative medicine, osteopathic medicine and just plain common sense.
Craig M. Wax, D.O., L.L.C. © 2014 ~ All Rights Reserved