About Depression

About Major Depressive Disorder 

Major depression is a serious medical illness that affects approximately 16.1 million Americans. Depression can cause ongoing sadness that changes how a person thinks, feels, and acts every day. While medication can help manage symptoms for many people, it is estimated that approximately 4 million patients do not benefit from taking standard antidepressant medication.

Depression Facts:

  • Women are more likely than men to suffer from depression
  • Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide.
  • Depression has no racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic boundaries.
  • Researchers estimate that by the year 2030, depression will be the leading cause of disease burden—impact on length and health of lives—worldwide.

What causes depression?

While the exact cause of depression is not known, the leading scientific theory is that it is caused by an imbalance of the brain’s neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that send signals between brain cells.

While antidepressant drugs work for many people, some still do not receive adequate treatment. For these patients, the effects of depression can still be debilitating. These patients need a proven, safe depression treatment option.

Depression Frequently Asked Questions

What is major depression?

Depression is a serious medical illness that lasts two weeks or more and interferes with a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks and enjoy activities that previously brought pleasure.

How prevalent is depression?

Depression is a serious illness. In the United States, depression affects approximately 14 million people, according to a national prevalence survey of more than 9,000 people age 18 or older.8

Is depression a serious disease?

Yes. The United States National Institute of Mental Health maintains that, “Depression is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally.” Depression causes pain and suffering not only to those who have the disorder, but to those who care about them.18 Depression can be a lethal disease leading to more than 1 million deaths from suicide each year.15Along with being a huge economic burden, depression is a leading cause of disease burden and disability around the world.15,16,17 Researchers estimate that by the year 2030, depression will be the leading cause of disease burden worldwide.16

Is there a cure for depression?

There is no known cure for depression. However, with effective treatment, many patients can remain symptom free and can lead normal lives.

Are some people more likely to become depressed than others?

Yes, depression is known to be hereditary so depression may occur in some people who have a particular genetic makeup that makes them more likely to develop depression. However, the exact nature of these genetic characteristics is not known. Other factors may contribute to an individual’s likelihood of experiencing depression. Some of these risk factors include:


  • Individuals suffering from certain medical illnesses such as stroke, heart attack, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and hormonal disorders
  • Individuals experiencing serious personal losses, difficult relationships, financial problems, or any stressful changes in life pattern
  • Individuals taking certain medications that may increase their vulnerability to depression

What are the symptoms of depression?

According to the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases, depression is diagnosed when an individual is experiencing a depressed mood, a loss of interest or enjoyment, and reduced energy leading to diminished activity. Other common depression symptoms include19:


  • Reduced concentration or attention
  • Reduced self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Ideas of guilt and unworthiness
  • Bleak and pessimistic view of the future
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Diminished appetite
  • Ideas of self-harm or suicide

If you feel you are experiencing any of these depression symptoms, contact your doctor and ask about your depression treatment options.

What are the current approved treatments for depression?

There are non-drug and drug therapies available to treat depression. Depression is often initially treated with psychotherapy (talk therapy) and antidepressant medication administered together. Although antidepressants can be effective for some patients, they do not work for everybody. Additionally, antidepressants often result in unwanted side effects.


Many patients do not receive adequate benefit from antidepressant medication and/or cannot tolerate the side effects caused by them.8 For these patients, alternative treatments that involve the use of a medical device are available. These treatments include transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).8

What is transcranial magnetic stimulation?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses short pulses of a magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells in the area of the brain thought to control mood. The pulsed magnetic field may have a positive effect on the brain’s neurotransmitter levels.

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