New Americans and Depression

There is so much more depression than just feeling sad. Depression is not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. Depression is pushing your loved ones away from you. Depression is forcing yourself to smile and say the words “I’m fine” over and over in hopes that you will eventually start to believe it yourself. Depression is a condition that reportedly affects 1 in every 10 Americans at one point or another in their life. Over 80 percent of those who show symptoms of depression are not receiving any kind of treatment.

Now, imagine yourself living in another country. This is your home, your culture and your lifestyle. Now, imagine yourself deciding, for whatever reason, to journey to a foreign country with a different culture, customs and lifestyles all on your own. With a language barrier blocking you from being able to connect with those around you and not having your family there can get you feeling down. After a while, after being hopelessly optimistic, you start to feel sadder each day. You decide that leaving your house is not worth it.

There are nine different forms of depression. The first is simply named major depression. About 7% of the adult United States population suffers from this mental health condition at any given time, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). If you’re experiencing major depression, you may feel and see symptoms of extreme sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy, irritability, trouble concentrating, changes in sleep or eating habits, feelings of guilt, physical pain, and thoughts of death or suicide. For an official diagnosis, your symptoms must last for more than two weeks. In some instances, a person might only experience one episode of major depression but the condition tends to recur throughout a person’s life. The best treatment is usually with antidepressant medications but talk therapy may also be used to treat these symptoms of depression. On the bright side, an estimated 80 to 90 percent of people with major depression respond well to treatment.

About 2% of the American population has a form of depression that is less severe than the one listed above, although it is still very real. This type of depression is called dysthymia. Dysthymia is a type of depression that causes a low mood over a long period of time, sadness, trouble concentrating, fatigue and changes in sleep habits and appetite. This depression usually responds better to talk therapy than to medications, though some studies suggest that combining medication with talk therapy may lead to the greatest improvement. People with dysthymia may also be at risk for episodes of major depression.

85% of new moms feel some sadness after they deliver their newborn baby, however up to 16% of women have a sadness serious enough to be diagnosed with postpartum depression. This type of depression is characterized by feelings of extreme sadness, fatigue, loneliness, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, fears about hurting the baby and feelings of disconnect from the child. It can occur anywhere from weeks to months after childbirth, and most always develops within a year after a woman has given birth. Treatments to postpartum depression may include a combination of talk and drug therapy.

If you would you prefer to hibernate during the winter than face those cold, dreary days and tend to gain weight, feel blue or withdraw socially during the season than you could be part of the 4 to 6% of people in the United States that are estimated to have seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. Although most people find themselves in winter funks, SAD is diagnosable by symptoms of anxiety, increased irritability, daytime fatigue and weight gain. This type of depression occurs during the winter season, which is likely caused by the lessening of natural sunlight and ultimately lifts in the spring. Symptoms of SAD can range from usually mild to severe. SAD can be treated with light therapy and artificial light treatment.

Atypical depression may be one of the most common types of depression. Some doctors believe that it is commonly underdiagnosed and is less well understood than major depression. A common sign of atypical depression is a sense of heaviness in the arms and legs, like a form of paralysis. However, after a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry (JAMA Psychiatry) found that oversleeping and overeating are the two most important symptoms of diagnosing atypical depression. People with the said condition may also gain weight, be irritable and have relationship problems. These symptoms can be most effectively treated with talk therapy sessions.

Psychosis, a mental state characterized by delusions, false sights or sounds, commonly known as hallucinations, does not get associated with depression. However, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 20% of people with depression have episodes so severe that they see or hear things that are not actually there. People with this mental illness may become catatonic, not speak or not leave their beds. Treatment may require a combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. Ten studies have shown that it may be best to start with an antidepressant alone and then add the antipsychotic drug if the doctor deems necessary. However, a recent study has shown that the combination of medications was more effective than either drug alone in treating psychotic depression.

If you experience periods of extreme lows and are quickly followed by periods of extreme highs, you could be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Also can be referred to as manic depressive disorder considering the symptoms can alternate between mania and depression. Symptoms of mania include high energy, excitement, racing thoughts and poor judgement. Symptoms may also include a cycle between depression and mania a few times per year or much more rapidly. This disorder affects about 2 to 3% of the population and has one of the highest risks for suicide. Bipolar disorder has four basic subtypes; bipolar one, characterized by at least one manic episode, bipolar two, characterized by hypomanic episodes, which are milder, along with depression, cyclothymic disorder and other specified bipolar and related disorder. Those who suffer with bipolar disorder are typically treated with mood stabilizers.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, PMDD, is a type of depression that effects women during the second half of their menstrual cycles. Symptoms include depression, anxiety and mood swings. Unlike premenstrual syndrome, PMS, which affects 85% of women and has milder symptoms, PMDD affects about 5% of women and is much more severe. PMDD can be severe enough to affect women’s relationships and her ability to function normally when symptoms are active. Treatment may include a combination of depression drugs as well as talk and nutrition therapies.

Situational depression, also known as adjustment disorder, is triggered by a stressful life-altering event. Such events could include job loss, death of a loved one, trauma or even a bad breakup. Situational depression is about three times more common than major depression and medications are rarely needed. The reason why medications are rarely needed is because it tends to clear up over time once the event has ended. However, that does not mean this should not be ignored. Symptoms of situational depression may include excessive sadness, worry or nervousness and if they do not go away they may become warning signs of major depression.

All of these types of depression can diagnosed to a New American. The most common type of depression that they suffer from is situational depression. They are taken away from their culture, daily lives and everything that they knew back in their native home and are suddenly forced to adapt to a completely new environment. Thankfully, there are organizations in Erie that can help those who suffer from any kind of depression.

With a quick Google search, you are opened up to 13 different pages of counselors that specialize in depression all in the Erie area. There is hope for the new members of America that find it difficult to get out of bed every day and adapt to their new lives. With their will, determination and support from those around them they will be able to get the help they need and be a functioning member of society and make a name for themselves here in the United States.


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