The term 'depression' is often used to describe an emotion experienced by many people. Everyone feels, sad or 'down' occasionally, but such feelings can pass fairly quickly. In contrast, people who are diagnosed by their doctors as suffering from 'major depression' are experiencing a serious medical illness, which affects not only their mood, but also a range of other normal bodily functions. Depression may affect the way a person eats and sleeps, and not to mention the least the way they feel about themselves. This is not a passing mood, and people with depression can not be 'blamed' for their feelings.

People with major depression often feel sad, helpless, hopeless, and irritable. While it is normal for everyone to experience these feelings occasionally, people suffering from clinical depression cannot simply 'snap out of it'. It is the persistence and severity of the emotions that distinguishes the mental illness of depression from normal mood changes. In contrast to the normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss, or passing mood states, clinical depression is persistent and can interfere significantly with an individual's ability to function effectively throughout the day or even to have the motivation to get out of bed in the morning. Thus it can have a devastating effect on all areas of a person's everyday life, including family relationships, friendships, and the ability to work or go to school.

Depression is so common that over 1 in 5 Americans can expect to get some form of depression in their lifetime. Over 1 in 20 Americans have a depressive disorder every year. The highest rates of depressive illness are found among people in their early twenties to mid forties, and the rate of clinical depression in women (about 12%) is almost double that in men (about 7%). Fortunately, there are many highly effective treatments for depression today that alleviate much of the suffering associated with depressive symptoms.

Today, we are able to treat depression much more effectively because we have a better understanding of the causes of clinical depression. Many people begin to feel depressed as the result of some recent, notable event or events, which occurred in one's life. We also now know that family history and genetics play a part in the greater likelihood of someone becoming depressed in their lifetime. Increased stress and inadequate coping mechanisms to deal with that stress may also contribute to depression. We know that there are biological and psychological components to every depression, it is not a purely biochemical or medical disorder.

If someone is diagnosed with depression (the doctor may also refer to 'clinical depression') this means that the symptoms with which the person is suffering are severe enough to require treatment. Doctors recognise several types of clinical depression, which differ in important ways. Among these are major depression, dysthymia, double depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

For many people, their depression goes undetected for several years. This may be partly due to the public perception that depression is not a real illness. Because of this, people with depression either may not realise that they have a treatable illness, or may be discouraged from asking for treatment because of feelings of shame (at the thought that they are to blame for their symptoms). As a result, many people suffer for years without a proper diagnosis or treatment. This is very unfortunate, because depression is one of the most treatable of the mental illnesses.

Between 80 and 90% of depressed people respond to treatment, and nearly all depressed people who receive treatment experience at least some relief from their symptoms. We have developed this resource center in the hope that people would gain a better understanding of this disorder and become more aware of it as a treatable clinical illness. To join in with our efforts kindly forward this page to your near and dear ones.

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