This essay has a total of 2727 words and 10 pages.


Consider this: Elizabeth Wurtzel has struggled with depression throughout her life. She
has a history of suicide attempts, self-mutilations, and serious mood swings. She took
numerous antidepressants and medications in an attempt to regulate her irregular behavior.
She quit using the medications due to the multiple side effects the drugs had on her. The
result was chaos; after Elizabeth quit taking her medication her body experienced episodes
of withdrawal. Despite her continued attempts to combat her illness, she experienced
nervous breakdowns and alienation from her friends and family. Elizabeth Wurtzel
reluctantly went back to taking medication despite the potentially serious side effects of
taking so many drugs (Kim 46).

" In the news, on the streets, and in neighborhoods, individuals are confronted with a
variety of social problems"(Kim 7). A person may watch a loved one battle cancer, suspect
a friend of having bulimia, or he/she may struggle daily with depression (Kim 7). The
National Institute of Mental Health estimates that as many as 17 million Americans each
year suffer from depression. About one in twenty-five of these sufferers is under the age
of 18, and one in seven women will experience depression in her lifetime. The illness
strikes regardless of age, gender, class, culture, or ethnic background (Kim 9). The
occurrence and distribution of depression in a population may be related to a variety of
factors. Such factors include a wide range of possibilities such as sex, age, living in
the town, living in the country, nutrition, marital status, socioeconomic background, and
genetic factors (Winokur 18). "Many people who are depressed do not seek treatment either
because they are unaware that their condition can be helped or because they are all too
aware of the stigma and shame associated with depression"(Kim 9). Discovering and
analyzing the complexities of issues that are associated with depression is a necessity in
the goal of obtaining a comprehensive understanding of depression and of those who suffer
from the disease (Kim 13). In order to completely understand the illness of depression,
people should understand what the disease is, what factors cause the disease, and the how
disease is treated.

"Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or discouragement occasionally tug at us all" (Kim
13), but those feelings eventually fade away. These feelings of being depressed can easily
be mistaken for the clinical illness of depression, but depression is quite different. The
illness of depression is a state of psychological misery that does not go away (Kim 13).
It may also be defined as a state of mind and body which is characterized by a change in
mood towards being miserable, worried, easily discouraged or agitated, unable to feel
emotions, fearful, despondent or hopeless (Winokur 3). People suffering from depression
often have slowed mental reactions, trouble concentrating and remembering, and difficulty
in interacting in social situations (Winokur XIV). "Clinical observations" have shown that
84% of depression patients suffer from "impaired concentration" (Winokur 6). Their
responses to questions "will take a long time in coming" (Winokur 4). Such forms of
pleasure as food, friends, and sex no longer hold an appeal to people who suffer from
depression. It has also been proven that 77% of people who suffer from depression lack an
interest in "usual activities" (Winokur 6). People who suffer from depression simply loose
their joy for life (Kim 13). Many people who suffer from depression entertain the thought
of suicide (Robbins 6). "Estimates are that the lifetime risk of suicide in persons with
serious depression runs on the order of 15% while it is only about one percent for the
general population" (Robbins 6).

Not only does depression affect people mentally, but it also affects people physically.
Many sufferers of depression experience an "increased or decreased appetite" (Kim 14)
which may result in weight and health problems. Irregular sleep patterns are commonly
associated with depression (Winokur 98). Trouble falling asleep and "disturbed sleep" (Kim
14) are also results of having depression. This problem is often called "sleep onset
insomnia" (Robbins 6). The experience of sleep deprivation inevitably leads to "fatigue"
(Kim 14) and over time "chronic fatigue" (Robbins 6). Depression also slows down the
physical reactions of people as well as their ability to perform everyday activities. Some
victims of depression also experience physical feelings of being worn out, headaches,
impaired vision, and hot and cold flashes (Robbins 17). Of course, not all people who
experience some of these mental and physical symptoms are necessarily in a state of
depression, and "not all of these symptoms will be present in each person" who experiences
depression (Winokur 4). In order to be diagnosed as victims of depression people must
suffer from "a minimal number of five symptoms"(Kim 14). Those people who experience the
minimal of five symptoms are said to be suffering mild depression. Mild cases of
depression involve "very little interference with normal functioning in usual social
activities" (Kim 14). The second type of depression is moderate depression, also known as
dysthymic disorder (Robbins 22). Dysthymic disorder is typically not severe but it has the
potential to last for many years (Robbins 4). Individuals who suffer from moderate
depression "experience more symptoms and greater impairment in their daily lives" (Kim
15). The worst case of depression is severe depression. "In severe depression symptoms are
increased in both number and severity and take a much greater toll on the ability to
function socially or professionally" (Kim 15). Large scale studies done in California,
Connecticut, Maryland, Missouri, and North Carolina indicated that about five percent of
the American adult population has at one time suffered from major depression. When the
percentages are calculated to numbers approximately nine-million adult Americans are
figured to have suffered from depression (Robbins 22).

Thus far we have covered what the psychological disease of depression is. But this is not
the whole picture. We still need to examine what factors cause the onset of depression.

Any illness that is contracted by a person doesn't just happen; in order for a disease to
be contracted specific risk factors have to be present. The severity of the disease
depends on the prevalence of the risk factors. The more prevalent they are, the more
severe the disease will be. Many questions are often asked about depression and the
answers are often debated (Robbins 21) . " Are men or women more likely to become
depressed? Does being in a minority group increase one's vulnerability? Does it make a
difference whether one lives in an urban area or in the countryside? And what relation
does the onset of depression bear to one's age? The answers to these questions will help
us better understand" (Robbins 21) the causing factors of depression and who is at the
highest risk of developing the disease.

Are women more susceptible to depression than men? Studies conclude that women are at a
higher risk of developing depression than men; women are said to be twice as likely to
suffer from the illness than men are (Winokur21). Women are said to be at higher risk
because they are exposed to more risk factors than men (Robbins 24). There are three
theories that explain why women are more likely to experience depression than men are. The
first theory is based on culture. "The cultural definition of being female"(Robbins 24)
allows for women to be more emotional than men. When those emotions being expressed are
negative the gate for depression to enter has been opened. The second theory is based on
the roles of women in society. Society often places women at economic and psychological
disadvantages (Robbins 25). Both of these disadvantages increase the women's exposure to
stress and anxiety; stress and anxiety are associated with depression as major causes of
the illness by two-thirds of the people who suffer from it (Winokur 20) . The stress,
present with other risk factors, make women even more vulnerable to depression. The third
theory expresses the belief that women are more susceptible to depression over men due to
the biological differences of men and women (Robbins 24). Even though many risk factors of
depression aren't biological, it is highly understandable that psychological factors might
only exist due to biological liabilities (Winokur 86).

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