Overview & Facts
Clinical depression is a serious medical condition that can affect women, men, children and teens. While the causes of depression are not fully understood, one thing is certain—depression is not a sign of personal weakness or the result of a character flaw. Clinical depression is not the same as feeling sad or disappointed for a day or two.
The emotional symptoms of depression can include persistent feelings of:
- loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy
- thoughts of death or suicide.
The physical symptoms of depression can be equally troubling. Examples include persistent:
- low energy
- body aches & pains
- sleep problems (too much or too little)
- weight changes.
Depression can also affect a person’s ability to concentrate and make decisions.
Depression can affect a person for no apparent reason. However, current research relates depression to certain chemical imbalances in the brain. People who abuse alcohol and other drugs are at higher risk for developing depression.
For some people, depression can be triggered by major stressors like divorce, the death of a loved one, or another significant life change. Even positive life events such as starting a new job, having a child, or getting promoted at work can trigger depression.
People who have a serious illness or debilitating injury can develop depression, as can people with a family history of depression.
A combination of medications and counseling can be extremely effective for most people. Medications for depression are thought to work by helping your brain produce the proper amounts of naturally occurring chemicals that affect your mood. Counseling (psychotherapy, talk therapy, etc.) with a trained mental health provider can help you better understand depression and make changes in your thoughts or behaviors that may not be healthy for you.
Counseling can also ease depression by helping you set realistic life goals, assess your relationships, and navigate through difficult times in your life. Sometimes a person’s depression can be serious enough to require hospitalization or a stay in a residential or partial hospital program. Receiving care in one of these settings is a good way to stay safe until your mood gets better and you can think more clearly (especially if you have thought about or attempted suicide).