Depression is one of the most common serious mental health problems facing people today. Clinical depression refers to a prolonged feeling of sadness that becomes overwhelming and prevents a person from functioning normally in their life.

Clinical depression is characterized by a low mood lasting two weeks or more and accompanied by changes in sleep, energy, appetite or concentration. Feelings of guilt and inadequacy are common, and studies have shown that women are almost twice as likely as men to experience a depressive episode over their lifetimes.

Depression can impact all aspects of a person's life. In severe cases, patients may experience thoughts of suicide.

There are a variety of circumstances that can contribute to developing depression, including:

  • Genetics: a history of depression in the family
  • Serious illness or medical condition
  • Grief from the loss of a loved one
  • Life changes (divorce, retirement, job loss, etc.)
  • Abuse (physical, mental, emotional, or sexual)
  • Substance abuse
  • Side effects of medication

Sometimes depression can occur "out of the blue," however, with no clear precipitating event.

Without treatment, depression can last for weeks, months or years and, most often occurs several times over the course of someone's lifetime. Treatment may vary from case to case, but typically includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Early diagnosis and treatment of depression can decrease the length and severity of episodes for most people, preventing years of suffering.

Signs and symptoms of Depression

  • Ongoing sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Irritability
  • Changes in appetite or diet
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable