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Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder, commonly referred to as depression, is a disease that affects nearly fifteen million Americans. About 8% of the American population suffers from depression and only half seek treatment. Of those who receive treatment, the vast majority recover and live healthy lives.

The Effects of Depression

Depression increases the risk of building a dependence upon drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex, gambling and other addictive behaviors. Depression can also contribute to poor physical health. Depression can manifest in many forms and several symptoms point to potential depression.

Symptoms and Effects of Depression Include:

  • Irritability
  • Change in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Unusual sleeping patterns
  • Hopelessness
  • Outbursts
  • Psychotic behavior
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide

The high rate of untreated individuals leads to 10-15% percent of depressed individuals committing suicide. There are several reasons for which somebody may not seek treatment, the most common is the stigma of depression.

Depression Stigma

Many people suffering from depression are frightened by the stigma, or negative judgment, that comes along with the disease. The view some people have of depression may be uneducated and prejudiced.

Those that live with depression may fall prey to judgments about people with mental illness as being “nuts” or “crazy.” The media portrays depressed individuals as lonely, isolating and angry individuals. The majority of advertisements about depict middle-aged white women suffering from this illness. The shame created of being stereotyped with these ideas of anger, loneliness and craziness can drive people away from wanting to admit they are depressed.

Changing the Stigma

According to experts, working to change the current stigma surrounding depression will significantly increase the number of individuals who choose to seek help. One of the strongest methods of reducing the negative stigma regarding depression is through media portrayal.

Advertisements and commercials for depression medications often do not fully encompass the true essence of depression. In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have made progress towards fixing the stereotypes by including a more eclectic group of individuals in their ads, but there is still much work to do.

Experts claim that educating the public about the nature of depression could have a positive impact. Many people see depression as a lack of willpower, as attention seeking or as weakness. Depression is a disease, and although environmental factors do play a role, most medical professionals agree that it has large a large genetic factor.

Education in schools, through the media and by parents about the disease of depression has proven to be an effective measure towards ending the stigma of depression. With over thirty thousand American committing suicide each year, the stigma of depression is a serious threat. It is important to understand that as a disease, it is often out of the person’s control and seeking help is the best option.

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