Depression is a sustained mental state that leaves people feeling so sad and in despair that it affects their daily life. Feeling sad or down from time to time is a completely normal part of life, but when that sadness is so extreme or long-lasting that it impacts your life as well as the lives of those around you, you might have depression.
Symptoms and Types
Symptoms of depression go beyond mere sadness. They often include feelings of hopelessness, guilt, pessimism and other negative thoughts that are so severe that they affect the person's interaction with others. People with depression also shun activities that were once interesting or pleasurable to them, such as hobbies or sex. They may have fatigue, lack of energy and oversleep. Or, they might have insomnia and be anxious and irritable. The symptoms may even manifest themselves physically in the form of aches, pains, cramps or digestive problems.
When the symptoms last for at least two weeks and are obvious but not severe, this is usually considered minor depression. If the depression progresses to the point where it's disabling and affecting the person’s ability to function normally, it's considered major depressive disorder. There are other forms of depression as well, including postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder and depression related to dysthymic disorder or bipolar disorder.
Causes of Depression
Everyone is at risk for depression. It affects about 25 million Americans, or 5 to 8 percent of the population. But it does occur 70 percent more often in women than in men. The reasons why are complex, but it's probably due to a combination of family history, issues in a person’s life and biological or psychological factors.
Everyone with depression, even minor depression, can benefit from treatment. Several medications can help with symptoms, and most people with depression can also benefit from some form of counseling with a trained therapist. Usually, some combination of the two approaches is used to treat depression.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Mental Health; National Alliance on Mental Illness
Noninvasive brain stimulation no better than medication in treating depression, study finds.
Novel treatment may need to be tailored to each patient, mental health expert says
Treating insomnia might help improve emotional well-being, researchers suggest
New research debunks other studies suggesting that medications used to treat ulcers, reflux cause mental decline
Study finds they are also more apt to get higher doses of the highly addictive painkillers
Other occupations have lower rates, study says
More than a third aren't getting help, federal study says
Screening for the mood disorder is important for successful healing, psychiatrist says
It finds newborns aren't more likely to be irritable, hard to feed or sleepless
Study finds the double whammy is a significant and growing health problem
They work by affecting brain chemicals that regulate mood, FDA explains
Three new therapy programs provide much-needed psychological support, researchers report
For people with mild or moderate depression, web-based versions might help, study finds
Monitoring by doctors, family and friends is crucial, researchers and experts say
Disparities can't be explained by lower income, other factors, researcher says
But study found proper dose of psychiatric drugs might erase that danger
Signs of depression may differ from those seen in general population, researcher says
Doctors, loved ones need to be on the lookout for distress and depression, cancer specialist says
Risk was 4 times greater if they were also overweight as adults, study finds
Study found it as effective as talk therapy for improving sleep and depression
Victims may develop depression, fueling risky behaviors, study suggests
Simple follow-up can prevent a future try, study shows
More use is linked to attention and behavior problems, but also less anxiety, study finds
Still unclear why more women than men affected by the disorder, researcher says
For instance, survey finds less than half can recognize anxiety
Researchers conclude that use of the painkillers is 'an American problem,' not a VA problem
After accounting for other factors that raise chances of the disorder, the increased risk disappeared
Rates of the disease tend to be higher in this group, researcher says
And about 1 in 10 Americans who need mental health care don't have the insurance coverage, study finds
People with these traits more likely to be healthier, less lonely and more financially stable, study finds
But more recent symptoms may be part of the disease
Those who perspire excessively may have hyperhidrosis
Review suggests many seniors struggle to get deep, restorative slumber, adding to health problems
For some it leads to closer bonds with friends, for others a greater risk of depression, study found
Projected weather-related disasters will fuel anxiety, depression, psychologists' group warns
Likelihood was more than twice as high, study reports
Rates of PTSD and depression are higher, but so too are liver problems and back pain, study finds
However, medications like Propecia, Proscar may be tied to depression, study finds
A special combination of dietary supplements may lower risk of postpartum depression, study finds.
A screen is still in development stages but could be important, especially for adolescents, experts say
Researchers look to nutrients to offset temporary brain-chemical changes in new mothers
For people with chronic nasal problems, mood is key reason for calling in sick, study finds
Study finds weekly sessions, plus deep breathing, helped ease cases when medications failed
Mental health screening recommended over the long term, study suggests
Mood disorder may increase inflammation throughout the body, researcher says
Mental health woes may trigger chronic fight-or-flight response, researchers suggest
Study found increased risk of dementia, depression in five years following brain attack
Akin to sunlight, it could ward off depression during rehab, study finds
Men who are stressed or in poor health seem to be at special risk, study shows
The blood sugar disease often comes with enormous mental and emotional strains, specialists say