Depression is a treatable medical condition.
Major depression is an episode of sadness or apathy along with other symptoms that lasts at least two consecutive weeks and is severe enough to interrupt daily activities. Depression is not a sign of weakness or a negative personality. It is a major public health problem and a treatable medical condition.
The primary symptoms of depression are a sad mood and/or loss of interest in life. Activities that were once pleasurable lose their appeal. Patients may also be haunted by a sense of guilt or worthlessness, lack of hope, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
Depression is often linked to physical symptoms. These include:
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Insomnia, especially early-morning waking
- Excessive sleep
- Decreased appetite resulting in weight loss, although increased eating sometimes occurs
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
Depression can make other health problems feel worse, particularly chronic pain. Key brain chemicals influence both mood and pain. Treating depression has been shown to improve co-existing illnesses.
Without treatment, the physical and emotional turmoil brought on by depression can derail careers, hobbies, and relationships. Depressed people often find it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. They turn away from previously enjoyable activities, including sex. In severe cases, depression can become life-threatening.
Anyone can become depressed, and as in many other physical ailments experts believe genetics play a role. Having a parent or sibling with depression increases your risk of developing the disorder. Women are twice as likely as men to become depressed.
Doctors believe that an altered brain structure and chemical function, causes depression – when chemicals called neurotransmitters become imbalanced. The stress of a traumatic event, such as losing a loved one or a job or other triggers such as certain medications, alcohol or substance abuse, hormonal changes, or even the season may lead to chemical imbalance.