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Dealing with Depression in Adults

Updated on December 1, 2014

Depression in Adults

Depression in adults is of interest because of its prevalence, it affects many adults, and unlike physical illnesses, it can go unnoticed. Depression in adults is relevant to social work because there is an increased demand for mental health care in older adults. Scientists expect that the prevalence of adult depression, which currently affects 12% of the American adult population, will reach 20% by 2030. It is also undertreated and not well recognized making it a major medical problem. It impairs the adults’ abilities to function as independent beings and sometimes contributes to poorer health. It affects the kin of those affected resulting in family disruption and suffering. Depression in adults is also relevant to social workers because they need to increase the availability of treatments to adults.

The Scourge that is Depression

Depression is a category of mental health problems characterized by loss of interest and lack of enjoyment in experiences and ordinary things, low moods and other cognitive, physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms. It remains difficult to distinguish different degrees of depression such as major depression and depression that occurs continually. Degrees of depression differ by the severity of the occurrence and its persistence. Depression affects many people and sometimes its stage, duration, and treatment history are helpful methods in deciding the forms of treatment. Some of its physical symptoms are social withdrawal, irritability, tearfulness, exacerbation of previous pains, fatigue, lack of libido, and diminished activity. Sometimes adults suffering from depression have low appetites and reduced sleep.

Depression Etiology and Epidemiology

In any given year, major depression affects approximately 15 million American adults. This is about 8% of the population of people aged 18 or older. Manic depression also known as bipolar disorder affects approximately 6 million adults, which is about 3% of the population. Even though depression affects both men and women, women are twice as likely to experience it asmen are. Over their lifetimes, about 12% of women will experience clinical depression. Treatment of depression is available across the country; however, only about 20% of the people who experience depression receive treatment. The other 80% do not receive any treatment. Depression sometimes leads to suicide. Out of all the cases of suicide, 90% of the victims usually have a history of mental health problems and in particular depression.

Depression Rates on the Rise

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents aged between 10 and 24. This is because approximately 4% of adolescents experience serious depression annually. Depression is a mental health problem that often leads to medical health problems. This is because it affects the immune system and weakens it leading to other health problems. Researchers project that by the year 2020, it will have become more prevalent. They project that it will be the second most common health problem in the world. Many people do not receive treatment for mental health problems especially depression. This is because many of them are unaware that they have depression. Others are ashamed to come forth with the illness. Despite this, it is one of the most treatable illnesses with an 80-90% chance of treatment.

The occurrence of depression is a distinguishing feature of old age. It is common with the presence of chronic physical illnesses. Eighty percent of older adults aged 65 and above who suffer from depression at least one chronic physical disorder. Out of those, 50% of them have at least two chronic physical illnesses. These chronic physical illnesses include heart disease, arthritis, and other muscoskeletal and circulatory problems. Other illnesses include hypertension and diabetes. Adults with co-occurring anxiety usually have difficulties in the treatment process. Research shows that fifty percent of adults with major depression suffer from anxiety. The reason why anxiety complicates the treatment process is that it may overshadow the symptoms of depression causing misdiagnoses.

Link between Depression and Age

Age is another factor that affects the medication process of depression. Older adults generally consume more over-the-counter, and prescription medications. Of those adults, the ones that also receive depression medications are likely to have complications. Cognitive and physical changes caused by aging may also make them vulnerable to the interaction and misuse of the multiple medications that they receive. Their metabolisms are also different and therefore depression medication is different for them than for younger adults who have generally higher metabolisms and fewer physical health problems. Adults who abuse substances are susceptible to depression because they have worse physical health, lower quality of life, higher likelihoods of contemplating suicide, lower social support, and more anxiety symptoms.

Depression and the Society

Cultural differences affect how people perceive depression. Therefore, it affects treatment access, treatment outcomes, and treatment preferences. This is because people from different racial and ethnic groups have different understandings of what depression is. Women have a higher prevalence of depression when compared to men. Women are twice more likely to have depression than men. Some people associate depression with myths and other severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia leading to misdiagnoses. Sometimes this may cause more harm to the patients. Some believe that treatment is unnecessary and this could worsen the condition.

The risk involved in depression in adult includes death by suicide and disability. It affects their occupational and social functioning, their physical health, and mortality. Research shows that onsets of depression are associated with onsets of disability. Depression also worsens physical health problems such as diabetes, asthma, angina, and arthritis. Due to the cognitive, motivational, and emotional effects of depression, adults are unable to work effectively and this causes losses in family and personal income resulting in suffering in the family setting. Depression may worsen disability, distress and pains associated with physical health problems. When adults experience depression along with their physical illnesses, their conditions worsen and their responses to treatment reduce.

Does Depression lead to Suicide?

Almost 1% of all deaths are suicides. That’s right-1% of all deaths on the planet. Depression and other mental health issues cause about 80% of all suicides. Having depression causes over four times a high risk of suicide in adults in the general population. This number is twenty times higher in severely ill adults. Sometimes depression causes people to act violently towards other people. Sometimes this leads to homicide. Families and marriages suffer strained relationships whenever there is a depression case within the household. This is because parents with depression may ignore their children and their needs and this may sometimes cause disturbances in the children. Divorces sometimes also result if one or both of the spouses undergo depression.

Depression-Experience of the Condition

People undergoing depression usually have low moods almost all the time. For some of them, positive events and experiences may elevate their moods; however, this is not usually sustainable with them going back to their low moods when the positive experiences are over. They sometimes go through physical symptoms such as lack of libido, fatigue, pains due to muscle tension, worsened pre-existing pains, social withdrawal, irritability, and tearfulness. They sometimes have problems sleeping, reduced appetites, some weight loss or excessive sleeping, increased appetites and weight gain. They feel guilty, have low self-esteem, little confidence, worthless, that they deserve punishment, and helpless. Some of the cognitive changes include pessimism, reduced attention, recurrent negative thoughts, and mental slowing.

People with depression tend to have suicidal ideation and may harm themselves or attempt suicide. They may have anxiety, which may lead to a diagnosis in anxiety, depression, or both. Some adults suffering from depression undergo marked physical slowness or agitation; they may lack reactivity to positive events. Usually, the symptoms of depression are worse in the morning hours. They are melancholic and those with extreme cases of depression may have psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions. They are usually thematic and are consistent with the negative cognitions of the person undergoing depression. Sometimes, the psychotic symptoms have nothing to do with the mood and these are usually hard to distinguish with the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia.

Impact of the Condition on Medical Practice and Treatment

Three interventions are useful in reducing the occurrences of depression amongst adults include therapies, self-help, and structured exercise. Behavioral activation is helpful in reducing depressive symptoms especially in patients aged over fifty. Cognitive behavior therapy is almost as effective as medication in treating depression. It is more effective than other psychological therapies. Counseling is another helpful way to counter depression. It is as effective as antidepressants after about 12 months since it is long term and it helps prevent recurrent cases of depression. In couples, couple-focused therapy is useful while in the family setting, family therapy is effective. This is because it brings about a social understanding of depression even to the people around the patient. Other useful therapies include music therapy, problem-solving therapy, reminiscence therapy, interpersonal therapy, and hypnotherapy.

Self help Groups

Self-help is a useful intervention for depressed adults because it provides a platform in which they can share their circumstances. These groups should have some organizational support, regular evaluation, accessible and welcoming venues, skilled facilitators, and should be recovery-focused. Frequent evaluation will help in noting their effectiveness in countering depression in adults. Their venues should be welcoming and non-stigmatizing in order to give the patients comfort as they face their illness. The self-help groups should also be confidential in order to ensure that the patients are as comfortable and positive as possible. Therapists should effectively monitor them in order to guide the progress of the patients.

Fighting Depression

Exercise and modification of lifestyles is another useful tool for countering depression in adults. Aerobics such as jogging and walking are more helpful in countering depression than anaerobic exercises. It has a clinical effect when compared to control intervention and no treatment. Exercise interventions are effective in reducing depression in adults when done to completion. The exercise must be frequent, consistent, and its duration should be between 30 and 40 minutes. Adults who would like exercise as an intervention for their depression should receive support from their local communities and exercise counselors. They should inform them on factors that may maintain and improve their motivation to continue with the exercise.

Depression and its Risks

Depression in adults is prevalent and with time, its prevalence increases. It has many health risks associated with it as well as harm that could come to the people that suffer from depression as well as those around them. The literature is adequate because it informs the consequences of the illness to both the patients and the people surrounding them. In addition to that, it addresses the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of depression in adults. In addition to that, it provides various solutions in addition to medical treatment. Treatment of depression through other means can sometimes be as effective as antidepressants. This is important especially because older chronically ill adults may not be able to add antidepressants to their prescription medications. It is however inadequate in separating the effects of depression in adults based on gender.

A Social Problem

Boundary spanning issues associated with adult depression include lack of awareness, lack of support from organizations and governments, and misdiagnoses. In countries and places where depression is not well researched or well understood, there are high cases of misdiagnoses. Some of these misdiagnoses lead to worsening of conditions. Depression is a complicated illness because its symptoms are occasionally mistaken with those of other mental illnesses. In poorly informed places and cultures, this also leads to misdiagnoses that cause more harm to patients. Lack of financial support is another problem in which research institutions are unable to acquire the accurate information about depression in adults.

Social workers should be interested in depression in adults because its treatment is a process that requires community support along with personal support. Sometimes depressed people are unaware of their condition and social workers can help spread this awareness. Once they spread the awareness of the symptoms and solutions to depression in adults, they can also assist in the non-medical healing processes that are just as helpful as antidepressants. With their training in social work, social workers are very useful in facilitating self-help groups and other interventions. Social workers can increase the number of depressed adults who seek treatment. This can help reduce social problems, and depression-related suicides and homicides.


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