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What is Depression

Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness.

Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with help such as medications, counseling, and other methods that can effectively help people with depression.

Two most common types of Depression

  • Major 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.
  • Minor Depression is characterized by having symptoms for 2 weeks or longer but don’t meet the characteristics of major depression.

Common Causes

If you're depressed, it might not be easy to figure out why. In most cases, depression doesn't have a single cause; it could be from a mix of things such as your genes, events in your past, your current circumstances and other risk factors.

  • Biology; certain parts of the brain don’t work properly or changes in certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.
  • Genetics; if depression runs in your family you may have a higher chance of becoming depressed.
  • Gender; women are about twice as likely as men to become depressed.
  • Age; the elderly are at high risk of depression.
  • Health Conditions; such as cancer, heart disease, thyroid problems, chronic pain increase your risk.
  • Trauma and Grief; such as violence or physical or emotional abuse, grief after a death of a friend or loved one can lead to depression.
  • Changes and Stressful Events; during stressful times such as during a divorce or positive changes like getting married or starting a new job can trigger depression.
  • Medication and Substances; many prescription drugs can cause symptoms. Alcohol abuse is common in depressed people.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Insomnia, early morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Faces of Depression

Depression in Men; Depressed men are less likely than women to acknowledge feelings of self-loathing and hopelessness. Instead, they tend to complain about fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and loss of interest in work and hobbies.

Depression in Women; Rates of depression in women are twice as high as they are in men. This is due in part to hormonal factors, particularly when it comes to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), postpartum depression, and perimenopausal depression.

Depression in Teens; A depressed teenager may be hostile, grumpy, or easily lose his or her temper. Unexplained aches and pains are also common symptoms of depression in young people.

Depression in Older Adults; The difficult changes that many older adults face such as bereavement, loss of independence, and health problems can lead to depression, especially in those without a strong support system.

Postpartum Depression; is a long lasting and more serious depression triggered, in part, by hormonal changes associated with having a baby, any depression that occurs within six months of childbirth may be postpartum depression.

(Adapted from the Mayo Clinic;