Depression is a condition in which a person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or disinterested in life in general. When these feelings last for a short period of time, it may be a case of "the blues." But when such feelings last for more than two weeks and interfere with daily activities such as taking care of family, spending time with friends, or going to work or school, it is a major depressive episode. Other symptoms may include changes in appetite and sleeping pattern, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, inability to concentrate, inability to find pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal, irritability, anger, anxiety, indecisiveness and unexplained aches and pains. Individuals with recurrent thoughts of suicide and death should seek immediate help either by contacting a suicide help line or going to a medical emergency center.
Depression is a medical illness involving an imbalance of brain chemicals. It is not a sign of personal weakness or character flaw. The exact cause of depression is unknown at this time. However, it is believed that depression may be caused by a combination of genetics and a stressful environment or life situation. Treatment of depression may include becoming involved with support groups, medications, and attending counseling sessions. Talk to your doctor to decide on the best treatment options if you or a family member has depression. Support groups are also a good source of up to date information and can help connect you with others affected by depression. Please also see: major depression, dysthymia, bipolar disorder, and postpartum depression.