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What is depression?
Everyone gets the blues or has low times, but those with depression have a difficult time getting out of that low period. Depression is a mood disorder that includes symptoms like lack of energy, long lasting sadness or irritability (lasting more than two weeks), and general lack of interest in life’s daily activities.

It is important to remember that it is a medical condition, and not a character flaw, a poor attitude, or a sign of personal weakness. In fact, there is absolute scientific proof that people who have depression have changes in their brains compared to people who do not have depression. There are a variety of very successful treatments for depression. People do not have to ‘learn to live with’ depression.

There are a few varieties of depression. Dysthemia, or chronic depression, happens over a period of at least two years (adults, or one year in children). The symptoms may be less severe than major depression, but they can last for years. Postpartum depression is a serious condition affecting as much as 10% of new mothers. It includes the same list of symptoms as depression, and can happen within a few days of having a baby or up to a year later.

What are the symptoms?
  • Sadness (usually lasting more than two weeks)
  • Loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Stomachache and digestive problems
  • Sexual problems (for example, decreased sex drive)
  • Aches and Pains (such as recurrent headaches)
  • A change in appetite causing weight loss or gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Attempting suicide

What causes depression?
There are many factors that cause depression. The combination of factors differs from person to person and can include:
  • A history of depression in the family: Experts agree that depression is passed genetically from generation to generation, although the exact way this occurs is not known.
  • Grief from the death or loss of a loved one.
  • Personal disputes, like conflict with a family member.
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
  • Major events that occur in everyone's lives, such as moving, graduating, changing jobs, getting married or divorced, retiring, etc.
  • Serious illness: depressed feelings are a common reaction to many medical illnesses.
  • Certain medications.
  • Substance abuse: close to 30% of people with substance abuse problems also have major depression.
  • Other personal problems such as loneliness or social isolation.

Other Sources of Information
  Anxiety and Depression Association of America
  Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Mental Health America
  National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute of Mental Health
  U.S. Department of Health & Human Services