Depression is a treatable medical illness involving an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. It’s not a character flaw or a sign of personal weakness. Just like you can’t “wish away” diabetes, heart disease, or any other physical illness, you can’t make depression go away by trying to “snap out of it.”

Episodes of depression often follow stressful events like marital problems or the death of a loved one. People who have recurrent episodes of major depression are sometimes said to have “unipolar depression” (or what used to be called “clinical depression”), because they only experience periods of low, or depressed mood (unlike someone with bipolar disorder who goes through periods of both low and high mood).

While depression sometimes runs in families, many people with the illness have no family history of depression. The exact causes of depression still are not clear. What we do know is that both genetics and a stressful environment, or life situation, contribute to its cause. Usually, it’s not one or the other, but a combination of both.

Symptoms Of Depression

  • Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
  • Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
  • Pessimism, indifference
  • Loss of energy, persistent lethargy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness
  • Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness
  • Inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

If you experience five or more of these symptoms for more than two weeks or if any of these symptoms interfere with work or family activities, consult with your doctor for a thorough evaluation. This should include a complete physical exam (some other illnesses can cause these symptoms) open and honest about how you are feeling and and a review of your family’s history. You cannot diagnose yourself and you cannot be diagnosed by a friend or family member. Only a properly trained health professional can determine if you have depression. An Online Self-Assessment can help you communicate your symptoms to your health care professional.

Two Common Types of Depression:

Major Depressive Disorder and Dysthymia are two of the most common types of depression that people experience. More on Two Common Types of Depression.

More About Depression