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Depression is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch. It’s a serious mental health condition that requires understanding and medical care. Depression can be devastating for the people who have it and for their families if left untreated. With early detection, diagnosis and a treatment plan consisting of medication, psychotherapy and lifestyle choices, many people get better. Some only have one episode in a lifetime, but for most depression recurs. Episodes may last a few months to several years, if left untreated. Those with severe depression can become so hopeless and are a high risk for suicide.


Depression affects people of all ages and all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Different groups of people experience depression in different ways. Men may feel more shame about their depression and simply try to tough it out or use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. Untreated depression in men can be devastating and men are about four times more likely to die by suicide than woman. With woman, many factors play a role in whether they develop depression, including genetics, biology, reproduction, hormonal changes, and interpersonal relationships.


Depression in elderly people often goes untreated because many people think that depression is a normal part of aging and a natural reaction to chronic illness, loss and social transition. The symptoms in older people may differ from younger people. Depression is characterized by memory problems, vague complaints of pain, and delusions and depression can be a side effect of many medications commonly prescribed to older people.


Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and question (GLBTQ) people are at higher risk for depression because they regularly face discrimination from society at large and sometimes from family, co-workers or classmates. The GBVTQ stigma can make them more vulnerable to mental illnesses like depression.


Children with depression are more likely to complain of aches and pains than to say they are depressed. Teens with depression may become aggressive, engage in risky behavior, abuse drugs or alcohol, do poorly in school or run away. When teens experience an episode they have an increased risk for suicide. The third-leading cause of death from suicide is among children aged 15-19.


  • Changes in sleep

  • Changes in appetite

  • Lack of concentration

  • Loss of energy

  • Lack of interest

  • Low self-esteem

  • Hopelessness

  • Changes in movement

  • Physical aches and pains



Depression does not have a single cause. It can be triggered, or it may occur spontaneously without being associated with a life crisis, physical illness or other risk. Scientist believe several factors contribute to cause depression:

  • Trauma

  • Genetics

  • Life circumstances

  • Brain structure

  • Drug and alcohol abuse

  • Other medical conditions


To be diagnosed with depression, a person must have experienced a major depressive episode that has lasted longer than two weeks. Symptoms of a major depressive episode include:

  • Loss of interest or loss of pleasure in all activities

  • Change in appetite or weight

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Feeling agitated or fatigue

  • Feelings of low self-worth

  • Guilt of shortcomings

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

  • Suicidal thoughts or intentions


Depression can be part of bipolar disorder or another mental illness making the diagnosis complicated. Research has shown that African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be misdiagnosed, so people who have been diagnosed with depression should look for a health care professional who understand their background and shares their expectations for treatment.



Depression often responds to treatment, although it can be a devastating illness. The key is to get a specific evaluation and treatment plan. There are a variety of treatment options available for people with depression today, including:

  • Medications

  • Psychotherapy

  • Brain stimulation therapies

  • Light therapy

  • Exercise

  • Alternative therapies

  • Self-management strategies in education

  • Mind/body/spirit approaches


A person with depression may have additional conditions, which make it difficult to treat. The additional conditions may include substance abuse, ADHD, and/or anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Successful treatment of PTSD, ADHD or substance abuse usually improves the symptoms of depression.

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