Depression affects an estimated 20 million Americans. It's one of the most common mood disorders in the country. It also comes in many forms, sometimes making it tough to recognize and treat. But the conversation is changing.
Depression was once exclusively discussed in private. Now it's more openly talked about. This is partly due to celebrities increasing awareness. Stars including Demi Lovato, Chrissy Teigen and Prince Harry have publically mentioned their mental health struggles. This public dialog has helped de-stigmatize the disease, making one thing very apparent: The more we know about it, and the more we feel comfortable talking about it, the more we'll get treatment.
Know you aren't alone
1 in 10 Americans suffers from depression according to recent estimates. Its causes are nearly entirely out of our control. And unfortunately, as many as 60 percent of cases go untreated.
“One of the first things I say to patients who ask about depression is that they are not alone and it is very common,” says Dr. Shawn West, a medical director at Premera. “They shouldn't feel embarrassed for fear that they're the only one among their friends. Typically, if you know 30 people, about half of them have been treated at some time with depression.”
Nobody knows the exact cause of depression, but we have a good idea of what contributes to it:
- Events that cause major stress and grief
- Medical conditions like an underactive thyroid, cancer, chronic pain, and other illnesses
Signs and types of depression
How long depression lasts only adds to its complexity. Sometimes it's temporary. Other times it becomes an ongoing chronic condition.
“Most people at some point in their life deal with depression,” says Dr. West. “Sometimes, it's purely situational -- you lost your job or your dog died, for example. You deal with the bereavement process and move on. But that's different from ongoing depression as a chronic condition."
The first signs of depression are physical symptoms, such as headaches or digestive problems. But whether it's chronic or situational depression, it's important to seek treatment if you think you might have it.
Find a behavioral health provider
Premera customers can search for doctors and other healthcare providers in our Find a Doctor tool. Make sure to choose providers that are in the network printed on your Premera card.Find a provider
Questions to ask
If you're concerned that either you or a loved one has depression, ask these questions:
- Does your family have a history of depression? Has a parent battled the disease? If not, is there a chance they never sought treatment?
- Have you self-medicated with drugs or alcohol? People with depression sometimes experiment with substances to feel better.
- Do you find that much of the time you are:
- Irritable, tense, or anxious?
- Feeling sad, empty, or uninterested in things you normally like?
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering things, or thinking quickly or clearly?
- Feeling guilty, hopeless, overwhelmed, or like you have no control?
- Sleeping more or less than usual?
- Overeating, under-eating, or experiencing other appetite changes?
- Feeling fatigued or lacking energy?
- Having thoughts of self-harm?
Answering these questions will help you and your doctor determine if you have depression.
If you think you have depression, the first step is to talk to your doctor. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great resource for more information. If you're in Washington, you can contact the Washington Recovery Help Line and in Alaska you can contact NAMI Anchorage.