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Definition of Depression

by Amanda Bennett
  • Overview

    Depression---also referred to as major depression, clinical depression, or major depressive disorder---is one of the most common medical illnesses in the world. Depression is a serious health problem that affects the total person. In addition to feelings, it can change behavior, physical health and appearance, academic performance and the ability to handle everyday decisions and pressures.
  • Definition

    Depression is a sadness or melancholy that lasts more than two weeks and significantly impacts the regular activity of a person. In mild cases this can be loss of interest, while in more severe cases it can be an inability to engage in regular activity.
  • Types

    Some depressive episodes begin with no identifiable trigger, while others can be associated with a major life event (positive or negative). It is possible to experience one single depression in a lifetime, but not uncommon to experience multiple episodes.
  • Symptoms

    Indications of a depressive episode can include loss of interest in regular activities, too much or too little sleep, difficulty concentrating, change in weight, irritability, reduced libido, suicidal behavior or unexplained physical pain.
  • Treatment

    Depression is considered a chronic illness that requires long-term management, much like diabetes or high blood pressure. Debilitating symptoms can be relieved quickly with psychological therapies, medications or a combination of both. Adjusting lifestyle can then reduce the quantity and severity of future episodes.
  • Causes

    The cause of depression is unknown, but recent research points toward a genetic component. Though the environmental factors cannot be underestimated, from negative life experiences to learned behaviors like low self-esteem or poor decision-making.
  • Facts

    Depression impacts more than 120 million people worldwide, yet less than ¼ of those affected have access to treatment. Obstacles to treatment include limited resources and a lingering negative social stigma surrounding the condition. This stigma keeps people from seeking help and keeps resources from being dedicated to making treatment readily available.

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