Because the issues that caused my generalized anxiety were not being addressed, it eventually evolved into major depression. I hit rock bottom and could not see a way to crawl out of the pits of depression hell. During this time, my life was a blur.
I almost destroyed my life, along with others who were a part of my life. Don’t be like me. Learn what major depression is and how it may be affecting you so you can begin to deal with what causes depression to creep into your life.
My fellow Black women, we are NOT immune…
What is major depressive disorder?
During our lifetime, we come across many difficult events and decisions; as the stress, anxiety, and instability buildup, we might experience feelings of sadness. However, these feelings are short-lived and should go away after a little while.
In contrast, Major depressive disorder or MDD is a mental sickness characterized by prolonged feelings of severe sadness and isolated behavior.
In this article, we will cover the basic concepts about MDD, including its prevalence, symptoms, and causes, as well as its impact on black women.
Prevalence of Major Depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one episode of major depressive disorder. This number comprises 7.7% of the general population (adults).
Additionally, the prevalence of MDD is more predilected towards women with a ratio of 2:1.
Finally, the age group that reported most cases of MDD is 18-25 years old.
When it comes to international statistics, the numbers are more frightening! According to the World Health Organization (WHO), major depressive disorder is responsible for the death of more than 800,000 people around the world every year.
Depression is described as “a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.”
In short, MDD is the most common mental disorder worldwide with an unbelievably high prevalence and incidence.
Epidemiology of MDD in African Americans
In a paper published by the Natural Institute of Health, the prevalence of MDD in African Americans was around 10.4%, as opposed to that of Caucasians, which is approximately 17.9%.
This was attributed to the difference in chronicity between the two races; for instance, black people reported a chronicity percentage of 56% while Caucasian patients had a lower percentage (38.6%).
Although more than half of African American patients experience MDD for longer periods, less than 50% of them seek mental health care.
As you can see, the prevalence of MDD in African Americans is already high. With the high chronicity and predilection to women, black women suffer the most from this debilitating disease.
What Are the Symptoms of Major Depression?
The signs and symptoms of a major depressive episode vary from one patient to another; in fact, the same patient could experience different symptoms during two separate episodes.
Intense feelings of sadness
This is not your typical day of feeling “bumped down or blue,” the feelings of sadness that a people with MDD experiences are extremely intense that he/she cannot think about anything else.
Additionally, this can lead to social withdraw, which aggravates the patient’s condition even further.
Loss of interest
Medically termed anhedonia, which means the complete loss of interest in everything, and I mean everything! People who used to enjoy a particular food, Tv show, or any other activity, find themselves totally unaffected by these things anymore.
This effect is so powerful that even if individuals try to force themselves into doing some activity, they will realize that it doesn’t make them feel anything.
Whether it’s hypersomnia (excessive sleep) or insomnia (lack of sleep), sleep disorders are a key feature of a major depressive episode.
The more common sleep disorder in majorly people is insomnia; this is particularly dangerous since suicide rates are the highest during the early morning, which is typically when patients wake up and have trouble falling asleep again.
Another torturing symptom is feeling guilty about everything you did and do; this means that you will regret every decision you made and everything that happened in your life and the life of your relatives, blaming everything on yourself.
This is described as mental pain, which is a lot worse than physical pain.
Feeling tired all the time is characteristic of MDD.
The combination of lethargy and anhedonia will lead to complete isolation and avoiding the things you used to find enjoyable.
Distractibility and lack of concentration can also be seen in people with depression.
Anorexia (diminished appetite) is a classic symptom of MDD; this will subsequently lead to considerable weight loss that further worsens the physical energy of patients, making them less active.
People with advanced symptoms of MDD will become mentally slow, which means answering questions after taking some time to think about them, as well as decreased physical activity.
In fact, this effect is so powerful that psychiatrists think it’s the only obstacle that stops patients from committing suicide; patients cannot even move to commit suicide!
A significant number of people with depression have suicidal thoughts that peak during the early morning.
MDD, by itself, is not inherently dangerous; however, patients should seek medical treatment to stop their suffering and prevent suicidal ideation.
The stigma of MDD in black women
Everyone deals with mental disease differently; however, the stigma in some racial and ethnic groups is on another level.
For starters, society views black women in a certain way that inhibits them from expressing their thoughts or seek medical attention.
In the eyes of society, black women are supposed to be strong, resilient, and never complain about their problems, especially when it comes to mental health.
Over time, this has led to the stigma of mental disease in black women, which subsequently made them less likely to visit a mental health professional to manage their condition properly.
This is especially frustrating since MDD is easily treatable with medication, CBT, or both.
Final Words on Major Depression
Black women are suffering in silence from the stigma created by society, which affects their mental health and stops them from getting medical treatment that may fix their problems.
Many campaigns have been launched over the past couple of years to educate patients about the importance of mental health and how they are slowly destroying our society; however, more efforts and financial support are needed to address this issue.