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Depression has been called the common cold of mental illness, probably because it affects so many people: Statistics show about 20 million Americans have it. Even so, many misconceptions persist. Some people think that it’s just a bout of the blues, that it’s a sign of weakness and that you can simply snap out of it. Here are three things you may not know:
Working long hours may raise your risk. In a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers followed more than 2,000 middle-aged government workers for six years; those who logged 11-hour or longer days were twice as likely to have depression. Other things could increase your risk: a family history of depression, stressful events or having a serious illness. In some cases, a depressive episode may occur without an obvious trigger.
Men and women experience depression differently. Women tend to display the more classic symptoms — they’re sad, or they’re oversleeping and overeating. Men tend to be angry, irritable and sometimes abusive; they also turn more often to drugs and alcohol. Women are likelier to seek treatment for depression; men try to “tough it out.”
Shock therapy is still in use. It’s called electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) now, but it’s still effective at providing relief for severe depression when no other treatment works. People may be leery about ECT, in which electrical currents are passed through the brain, but you don’t consciously feel the impulses, and side effects, including confusion and memory loss, are usually temporary.