vary widely, can happen once in a lifetime, have multiple recurrences or be a life-long disorder. It is estimated that more than 19 million Americans are living with depression. Everyone experiences periods of depression or “feeling blue” and this is quite normal. This differs, however, from clinical depression, which is a psychiatric disorder defined as a “pervasive low mood with loss of interest in normal activities and a diminished ability to experience pleasure.” Untreated clinical depression is serious and a major risk factor for suicide. Symptoms include:
Persistent anxious feelings
Persistent sad feelings and crying for no reason.
Loss of appetite and weight loss for no reason.
Oversleeping or wanting to sleep all the time.
Restlessness or irritability.
Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness or inappropriate guilty feelings.
Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions.
Loss of interest in hobbies or activities once enjoyed.
Withdrawal from family and friends.
Feeling sluggish, slowed down, tired all of the time.
Headaches, digestive problems and chronic pain.
Thoughts of death or suicide.
There is no single cause for clinical depression. It is related to physical changes in the brain, and connected to an imbalance of a type of chemical that carries signals in your brain and nerves. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. Some of the common causes of clinical depression include:
Genetics - Depression often runs in families for generations.
Trauma and/or stress - Financial problems, divorce or the death of a loved one can bring on depression. You can become depressed after any major life change such as starting a new job, or moving.
Pessimistic personality - People who suffer from low self-esteem and a negative outlook on life are at higher risk of becoming clinically depressed.
Physical conditions - Serious health problems such as heart disease, cancer or HIV can contribute to depression.
Other psychological disorders such as eating disorders, anxiety disorders or substance abuse.
Aging - Older people lose loved ones and have to adjust to living alone. They may become physically ill and unable to be as active as they once were. These changes can all contribute to depression.
If you experience any of the above symptoms and/or you feel “down” for more than two weeks, you may be clinically depressed and should seek help from your family physician or a local mental health center. There is help available in many different forms, including medication, therapy and lifestyle changes. It is vital for anyone suffering from depression to realize that it is a treatable illness.