Everyone at one time or another has felt depressed, sad, or blue. Being depressed is a normal reaction to loss, life's struggles, or an injured self-esteem. But sometimes the feeling of sadness becomes intense, lasting for long periods of time and preventing a person from leading a normal life. Depression that has these characteristics is a treatable medical condition called major depressive disorder, one of a number of depressive illnesses. Types of depression include: Major depression, chronic depression (dysthymia), bipolar depression, and seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder or SAD).
According to a report from the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 18.8 million Americans over the age of 18 suffer from major depression. Suicide, closely linked to depression, is the third leading cause of death in 10- to 24-year-olds. Unfortunately, most people never seek treatment. Left undiagnosed and untreated, depression can worsen, lasting for years and causing untold suffering, and possibly even result in suicide.
What Are the Symptoms of Depression?
These are some of the signs and symptoms of depression that you should be aware of:
- 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
- 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
Are There Different Types of Depression?
Although these signs and symptoms of depression are characteristic, they can occur in different patterns, like seasonal symptoms, or in association with manic features.
- Major depression
- Bipolar Depression
- Chronic Depression or Dysthymia
- Seasonal Depression
- Psychotic Depression
- Postpartum Depression
How Do I Get Help for Depression?
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression, seek your health care provider's advice for treatment or referral to a mental health professional.
If you or someone you know is demonstrating any of the following warning signs, contact a mental health professional right away or go to the emergency room for treatment.
- Thoughts or talk of death or suicide
- Thoughts or talk of self-harm or harm to others
- Aggressive behavior or impulsiveness
Previous suicide attempts increase the risk for future suicide attempts and completed suicide. All mentions of suicide or violence must be taken seriously. If you intend or have a plan to commit suicide, go to the emergency room for immediate treatment.
Learn how to recognize the signs of suicide
View the full table of contents for the Mental Health Guide.