According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is among the leading causes of disability worldwide, affecting 121 million people around the globe. Knowing about the course of depression symptoms can help guide those seeking treatment for depression.
There is good news and bad news, but more than 50% of people with depression do recover. It is definitely worth it to seek treatment for depression early because statistics show that the longer depression goes untreated, the harder it is to treat.
Clinical studies of people seeking treatment for depression reveal that about one-half of people who have a Major Depressive Episode (i.e. clinically diagnosed major depression) suffer from the symptoms for 2 to 20 weeks. The other half of people who have a Major Depressive Episode suffer for 20 weeks or more.
Statistics show that 20% of patients with a major clinical depression will continue to be ill for at least 2 years. And 12% of patients with major clinical depression will continue to be ill even after 5 years. When clinical depression lasts 2 years or longer it is considered to be chronic depression.
About half of patients with chronic major clinical depression who get better with treatment end up suffering relapses within one or two years after stopping treatment. This is another indicator that treatment works, it just may have to be ongoing.
Another type of chronic depression is known as Dysthymic Disorder, or Dysthymia. This depression lasts longer than two years, however, the symptoms are not severe enough to meet the criteria for a Major Depressive Episode.
About 6% of the general population suffers from Dysthymia, but more than 75% of people who have it will have an episode of major clinical depression at some point. When this occurs, it is known as “double depression.”
Those who recover from a Major Depressive Episode in less than two years are said to have episodic depression, (as opposed to chronic depression.) But for some, symptoms will recur one or more times.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a major clinical depression but it has its onset in the fall and, if left untreated, usually goes away in spring. This type of depression only affects people living at certain latitudes where the days get shorter in winter.
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Different types of treatments for the different types of depressions exist and statistics consistently show that they help around 50% or more of patients get relief from depression. For example, light therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) help with winter depression in about 50% of cases. A recent study by Dr. Kelly Rohan showed that CBT helped prevent the recurrence of winter depression the following fall. This result, if it is replicated by other researchers, may provide clues to how to prevent episodic depression from recurring.
CBT is also effective in treating other forms of depression. Light therapy is also being used effectively for non-seasonal depression, as is sleep/wake therapy. Antidepressant medications can also help in about 50% of cases. There are specialized treatments for chronic depression.
Some people with depression symptoms suffer for a short time and treatment helps them return to normal, though symptoms may recur from time to time. Others continue to suffer with partial or full symptoms for long periods of time. Statistics reveal that various depression therapies consistently help more than 50% of patients, so treatment is definitely worth pursuing. With depression, early treatment is best.
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