By now just about everyone is aware that some people are affected by clinical depression. There has been enough media and celebrity attention to this disease that most people know it exists.

Still, few completely understand its magnitude or severity, the chronic nature of the illness or all of the symptoms that go along with it.

Depression is more than a simple case of the blues. Everyone experiences sad days or periods when life isn't going too well. Clinical depression, however, involves a depressed mood for prolonged periods of time wiht sometimes no correlation to life circumstances.

Aside from feelings of sadness, other psychological symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem, impaired memory, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and preoccupation with negative thoughts.

A little known fact about depression is that it is a systemic disease rather than simply a mood disorder. Physical symptoms are extremely common and are often the reason affectved individuals initially seek help in a medical setting.

Some of the most common physical manifestations of depression include: aches and pains, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, chest pain, back pain, intestinal complaints, diarrhea or constipation, menstrual dysfunction and headaches.

Not only is this a disease that affects the entire body, but it affects a huge number of people. In any 12-month period it is estimated that more than three million Canadians are suffering from depression. One in six individuals will experience depression at some point in life.

Despite the magnitude of people directly affected by this illness, only 25 per cent of cases are detected and diagnosed and only six per cent are properly treated. This is amazing considering the availability and success rate of effective treatment. Untreated depression costs society $60 billion every year in direct health costs as well as lost productivity in North America alone.

Depression is the fourth leading cause of disability world-wide and experts believe that by 2020 it will be raised to the second leading cause of disability. Clearly, this disease is a lot more mainstream than is sometimes thought.

Along with the widespread nature of depression goes its chronicity. In the vast majority of cases, depression is a recurrent experience. If untreated, bouts of depression will most likely continue throughout the individual's life and may increase in frequency and severity over time.

Allowing recurrences is not only unpleasant, but can be harmful as it will take less and less to trigger a depression over time. Also, the brain changes with each recurrence of the disease.

Depression should be treated early and completely - with complete remission and return to normal functioning as the goal.

Above all, if you or a loved one are experiencing depression, speak with your doctor as soon as possible.


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