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Conditions InDepth: Depression
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Depression is a serious condition that involves your body, mood, and thoughts. It can affect the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, the way you act, and the way you think about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better.
Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment however, can help most people who suffer from depression. People with depression may not recognize that they have a treatable disorder or they may be discouraged from seeking or staying with treatment due to feelings of shame and the associated stigma. Too often, untreated or poorly treated depression is associated with isolation or suicide.
There are several main types of mental disorders which feature depression as a primary symptoms:
Depressive disorders affect more than 19 million Americans. Although depression can affect anyone, including children, females are more likely to have depression than males.
Any type of depression may run in families, suggesting that a biological vulnerability can be inherited. Depression can also occur in people who have no family history of the condition. Additional factors, such as stress at home, work, or school, may trigger depression.
Whether inherited or not, depression is often associated with an imbalance in certain brain chemicals. Often, a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors is involved in the onset of a depressive disorder. Depression may also result from having a chronic physical illness or from taking or misusing certain medications or drugs. In people who have suffered a previous episode of depression, another episode may be precipitated by very little or no stress. Depression may also occur in cycles without a precipitating cause.
What are the risk factors for depression?
What are the symptoms of depression?
How is depression diagnosed?
What are the treatments for depression?
Are there screening tests for depression?
How can I reduce my risk of depression?
What questions should I ask my doctor?
What is it like to live with depression?
Where can I get more information about depression?
Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated September 20, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 2016. Accessed August 24, 2016.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 9/17/2014
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