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Don't Live With Depression

Many people simply accept their symptoms, but you can turn things around.

Key points

  • Depressed people sometimes come to accept their symptoms as normal.
  • Only a third of depressed Americans seek treatment even when the problem is severe.
  • Poverty is a risk factor for depression.
  • There are many non-biological reasons women tend to get depressed more than men do.
Joice Kelly/Unsplash
Source: Joice Kelly/Unsplash

It's easy to get used to being sad and hopeless. You may not think of your state of mind as an illness or even imagine that it could change.

According to the latest government figures, more than 8 percent of American adults, about 21 million people, had a serious bout of depression in 2020.

In 2021 the shutdowns that kept people at home and worry about COVID-19 probably triggered or aggravated depression as well.

But only about a third of people with depression in this country ever seek treatment, even if their problem is severe. Depression becomes their new normal.

Let's say you're 45, divorced, and feel bad about your finances and weight. You're also worried about one of your children who isn't doing well in school. But you're too tired to do much about it and feel guilty that you're not a good mother. You get headaches, miss work, and worry about keeping your job.

You might think, Of course, I'm depressed. My life is too hard. I just need to plug away.

However, you'll have greater success at helping your child and keeping your job if you're not exhausted and getting headaches.

It can be difficult to find mental health care on your own. You might start with your primary care doctor, who can prescribe antidepressants. At large companies, you may have an employee benefit for counseling or discounts for a gym where you can get sessions with a personal trainer.

Historically, people living below the poverty line have been about twice as likely to be depressed. In fact, poverty itself is a risk factor for depression in part because healthy food and adequate sleep may be hard to arrange.

The highest rates of depression show up among teenage girls: more than 25 percent. About 17 percent of young people—from 12 to 25—suffer from depression. Adult women (10.5 percent) are more likely to report major depression than men (6.2 percent).

Why do women have higher depression rates? Physical factors like hormones play a role. But women are more likely to be in poverty, responsible for child and elder care, and experience harassment and violence. They may not have the same opportunities to rise in their workplace. For those women who value relationships highly, more is at stake when things get rocky. Women may blame themselves when their marriage suffers, or the kids act up.

It's also true that men are less likely to confess to depression than women. They instead may turn to substance abuse, recklessness, and violence. They are nearly four times more likely to commit suicide than women. A pileup of problems can lead to fatal suicide attempts. Some people make attempts even when they wake up one morning with no intention of dying.

If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, seek help immediately. For help 24/7, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.