Major Depression

Major depression is a mental health disorder which causes prolonged feelings of despair, worthlessness, irritability, and fatigue (see a more complete set of depression symptoms below). Major depression can strike at any age, although it is most common in young adulthood. Both men and women can experience major depression, however the disorder is more common in women.

Depression is sometimes called the "common cold" of mental health, because it is so common--nearly 10% of the population suffers from a depressive illness in any given year, according to NIMH. It is the leading cause of disability in the US and worldwide, according to the WHO. And though effective treatments exist for depression, many people continue to suffer in silence.

Symptoms of Major Depression

Differences by Gender

Depression in Women

Women are twice as likely as men to experience major depression. This discrepency may be due to the inherent hormonal fluctuations of womanhood, associated with the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause. Women are particularly vulnerable to depression following childbirth, a condition known as postpartum depression. Women suffering from major depression are more likely than men to attempt suicide.

Depression in Men

Men often conceal depression better and are less likely to seek treatment for major depression. Some men consider depression a women's illness, while others mask their symptoms with alcohol abuse or long work hours. While men are less likely to attempt suicide than women, men are more successful. The rate of suicide among men increases with age, peaking at 85. Depression in men tends to manifest itself in the form of irritability, anger, and feelings of discouragement and low self-worth.

Major Depression by Age Group

The onset of depression occurs most commonly between the mid-twenties and the mid-forties, although it can strike at any age. Depression in children is increasingly being recognized as a real illness.

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Other Conditions Associated With Major Depression

The following conditions have been linked with major depression. The presence of one or many of these conditions may predispose individuals to this disorder.