Depression, anxiety issues for many

Mental illness is a growing problem. There are 43.8 million people who experience some kind of mental illness in a given year. The most common types of mental illnesses are major depression, and anxiety disorders. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 16 million people are affected by Major Depression, and 42 million live with some type of anxiety disorder. Some people have both an anxiety disorder and depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines depression as a serious long term disorder that affects normal functioning and daily living. The most common depressive disorder is Major Depression which may occur only once, but is likely to reappear throughout the patient’s life. Symptoms may include: trouble with work or school; trouble with sleep regulation; eating; disinterest in once enjoyed activities. Some other depressive illnesses are postpartum depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Postpartum Depression is an illness that occurs in new mothers. They have an episode of Major Depression within a month of delivery. Ten percent to 15 percent of new mothers are affected by this disease. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is an onset of depression in winter due to lack of sunlight. Depression usually lifts in the spring and summer. The illness is treated with a variety of therapies and also in some instances with medication. The best treatment is a combination of therapy and medication.

Anxiety disorders are common. The NIMH defines anxiety as an illness that does not go away. Anxiety gets worse over time. It can interfere with daily activities. Some of the most common anxiety disorders are: generalized anxiety disorder; panic disorder; social anxiety disorder. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is an excessive amount of anxiety or worry for months with several anxiety symptoms. Symptoms include: being on edge; being easily fatigued; feeling irritable; difficulty concentrating or having your mind go blank; difficulty controlling the worry. Panic disorder is very different. With this illness you have recurrent unexpected panic attacks, with sudden periods of intense fear. These panic attacks may include symptoms like: palpitations; high heart rate; sweating; shaking; shortness of breath; smothering or choking; a feeling of impending doom. These are just some of the symptoms that occur just before or during a panic attack. They may remain present all of the time. The last is Social Anxiety Disorder is a fear of social situations in which you expect to feel embarrassed, judged, and fearful of offending others. Some of the symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder may include: a feeling of being anxious around others; worrying for days or weeks before an event where there will be others; feeling sick with others around. The treatments for these disorders are much like those for depression, medication and different forms of therapy.

Many of us have some form of mental illness. If you are looking for local resources, go to the Washington County Behavioral Health Board’s website at www.washingtongov.org/wcbhb or call 740-374-6900.

If you are looking for information on different mental illnesses go to www.nimh.org or go to your local library and check out the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM5).

Melissa Nicholas is a community consultant to the Public Information and Education Committee of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board.