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Conditions InDepth: Depression

Depression is a common, but serious mental health problem. It involves your body, moods, and thoughts. It can touch all parts of your life such as how you eat and sleep, act, or feel about yourself and others. A depressive disorder is not the same as a blue mood. It's not a sign of weakness or an illness that can be willed or wished away.

Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks to years. But, most people do get better if they're treated. People may not understand they have a problem that can be treated. They may be discouraged from seeking or staying with treatment. They may also feel ashamed of having these feelings. Too often, depression that is poorly or not treated can lead to isolation or suicide.

There are many types of mental health problems that feature depression:

Depressive disorders are among the most common mental health problems in the US. It can affect anyone. But, females are more likely to have it than males.

Depression tends to run in families. This suggests there may be a genetic link. Depression can also occur in people who have no family history.

There is no one cause of depression. It's a combination of your genes, environment, and mental factors. It may start because of a long-term health problem or because of substance misuse. Some people notice problems when they’re under stress at home, work, or school. Without treatment, people who have had episodes of depression are at a high risk of having them again. For some people, the cause may be unknown.


Depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml. Updated February 2018. Accessed October 5, 2018.

Depressive disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/mood-disorders/depressive-disorders. Updated May 2018. Accessed October 5, 2018.

Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116638/Major-depressive-disorder-MDD. Updated August 23, 2018. Accessed October 5, 2018.

Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 10/5/2018