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What Is Depression?

Depression is a serious illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It is an episode of sadness or apathy that lasts at least two consecutive weeks and is severe enough to interrupt daily activities. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way they feel about themselves, and the way they think about things. It can strike anyone, destroying both family life and the life of the person who is depressed. Depression is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. It is a major public health problem and a treatable medical condition. Symptoms include restlessness and irritability; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness; and persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment. Treatment for depression often involves medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.

Possible Causes and Risk Factors

Doctors aren't sure what causes depression, but the theory is altered brain structure and chemical function. These chemicals called neurotransmitters and in most cases they become unbalanced. It is believed that depression is frequently caused by a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Other triggers could include:

- A family history of the condition - If depression runs in your family, you have a higher chance of becoming depressed.
- Certain medications - Many prescription drugs can cause the symptoms of depression.
- A history of substance or alcohol abuse - It often makes your condition worse and in result deteriorates your mood.
- Certain medical illnesses - Having other general health conditions or diseases can increase your risk of depression. For example, if you had a heart attack, you have a 65% risk of becoming depressed afterwards. Conditions such as cancer, heart disease, thyroid problems, and many others increase the risk of becoming depressed.
- Hormonal factors
- Stressful events - Many people become depressed during difficult times.
- Your gender - Women are about twice as likely as men to become depressed. The hormonal changes that women go through at different times of their lives plays an important role.

Some people know why they become depressed. Others don't. Remember!, depression is not your fault! It's not a your fault. It's a disease that can affect anyone.

Depression Symptoms

A person with depression can have a variety of symptoms. They may vary in their severity and how long they last. The primary symptoms of depression are a sad mood and loss of interest in life. Activities that were once pleasurable lose their appeal. People may also feel a sense of guilt or worthlessness, lack of hope. They can be haunted by frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

Major symptoms include:

- A persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
- Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Loss of  pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed (could be even sex)
- Decreased energy, fatigue
- Difficulty with concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Loss of appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Restlessness and irritability
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Constant physical symptoms not responding to treatment such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.
If you have five or more of these symptoms for two weeks or longer, you could have clinical depression and should see your doctor or a qualified mental health professional for help.

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