The question of what causes depression has no simple answers. All that is known for certain is that depression is the leading reason people seek mental health care. A clear connection exists between depression and biochemical imbalances in the brain. It’s less clear whether external factors (stress, grief, or postpartum depression, for example) cause the biochemical imbalance, or if the biochemical imbalance makes a depressed patient more susceptible to the external factors.
What is known is that almost one third of all mental health patients suffer from depression. And professionals suspect that many more people suffer through bouts of depression without receiving the mental health care they need. Often, substance abuse is seen with sufferers of depression . . . perhaps an attempt to self-medicate and alter and improve their daily perception of life.
Ten percent of the male population will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Rates of depression in women are even higher—twenty-five percent. Teenage depression is also on the rise, a problem that’s reflected in the fact that half a million teenagers attempt suicide every year in the United States alone.
Depression in Women
Depression in women occurs with greater frequency than it does in men. Or perhaps more accurately, women seek out help for depression more than men. Societal pressures and the stigma associated with mental illness may prevent more men from seeking help. By the same token, women traditionally have suffered more from social restrictions, stress, grief, and guilt caused by those restrictions.
Most new mothers can tell you about the baby blues—that combination of exhaustion, nerves, fears, and hormonal imbalances, which often accompany the birth of a child. In most cases, the blues last a week or two, and then slowly dissipate.
In some cases, the baby blues turn into a full-blown postpartum depression, requiring professional intervention and causing the new mother unnecessary grief. If the blues haven’t gone by the time the baby is a month old, or if the mother is entertaining thoughts of suicide or harming her child, a doctor should be consulted immediately.
Almost all adults remember the stresses of their teens, even those whose teenage years were happy ones. The desire to fit in, the need to be independent, to be respected, to become an individual—so many pressures work against one another in the teenage world.
Teenage depression is all too often dismissed as moodiness or angst. Tragically, undiagnosed teenage depression too often leads to suicide attempts and the ultimate tragedy.