Psychology Today / TMS & Brain Health

Why Is Depression Always a Lifetime Battle?

December 13, 2019

Pervasive and insidious, Major Depressive Disorder is one of the most common mood disorders in the United States, afflicting upwards of 17 million adults each year. The global impact is, by some accounts, larger than the entire population of the United States. It is characterized by a combination of overwhelming feelings of sadness and/or guilt, lack of energy and motivation, insomnia or hypersomnia, anxiety, agitation, and difficulty concentrating.

Sometimes these symptoms follow a diurnal pattern, such that they worsen in mornings and evenings. Ultimately, these symptoms are so debilitating in so many people that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

We normally think of talk therapy and antidepressant medication as the “gold standard” of treatment for depression. Unfortunately, the research shows that this is more of a temporary band-aid affixed to an underlying issue, as opposed to a treatment for the root cause. Longitudinal research suggests that over the lifetime, at least 73% of individuals diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder will endure future episodes, while 90% of individuals with at least three previous episodes will endure more (Mueller et al., 1999; Hollon et al., 2006; Wojnarowski et al., 2018; Solomon et al., 2000). Additionally, this has a multiplicative effect, such that each depressive episode significantly raises the probability for a future depressive episode, regardless of whether traditional treatments were utilized (Solomon et al., 2000).

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