Depression is a mood disorder that can impact your feelings, thoughts, relationships with other people, and even your day-to-day functioning. It is much more common than many people realize, affecting approximately 18 million Americans every year. The symptoms of depression include sadness or emptiness (in children and adolescents, this may appear as irritability), decreased interest in activities, changes in eating habits, difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping, and fatigue or loss of energy. Some individuals with depression also feel restless, or may even feel sluggish and lethargic. Symptoms may include somatic complaints such as headaches or other aches and pains. Depression may also present as feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating or making everyday decisions, and possibly thoughts of suicide.

Many people experience the above symptoms only briefly, or in response to some type of event. However, with clinical depression, several of the above symptoms are present most of the day, nearly every day over the course of at least two weeks. People who are suffering from clinical depression also experience significant impairment in their social life, family life, or with their employment due to the above symptoms.

While people with depression share many of the same symptoms, the disorder can take various forms or types. For example, some people experience only one episode of depression, while others experience several episodes throughout their lives. Depression can also begin very suddenly and unexpectedly for some people, but may follow a life change or specific situation for others. Further, some people have difficulty performing even the most basic tasks when they are depressed, while others seem to manage but obviously don’t appear to be their "usual" selves.

Depression can also present as bipolar depression, in which their moods fluctuate between the extremes of despair and mania/euphoria. While both men and women suffer from depression, women appear to experience it twice as frequently as men. Further, though symptoms or complaints may take different forms, depression does exist across cultures and ethnic groups.

Depression is a biopsychosocial disease, which means that it is caused by several physical, psychological, and social factors. There appears to be a genetic link to depression, meaning that one may have inherited a predisposition for the disease from family members. Other physical causes include that there may be a disturbance in the way a person’s neurotransmitters (chemicals that play a role in the transmission of signals in the brain) work. Certain medical diseases and psychiatric disorders can also contribute to depression. Some of the psychological
factors that can contribute to depression include engaging in negative self-talk (thinking badly about yourself), and having a negative or pessimistic view of the world. Those who do not handle stress well or do not use coping techniques to deal with stress are also more prone to depression.

Social factors that can contribute to depression include being raised in an abusive household, or experiencing some other type of abuse. Having few close friends or being in a dysfunctional relationship can also contribute to developing depression. Fortunately, depression is a treatable disease. There are many therapies and treatments available to help those who suffer from depression. Some people will benefit from individual therapy alone. Working with a licensed counselor or therapist may be all that is needed for some people to alleviate their depression.

Others may require psychotropic medication, or antidepressants, in combination with mental health counseling. Because family members can also be affected by depression, it may be helpful to include family therapy in the treatment program. A further source of help for those who are depressed may be group therapy, particularly if there are other issues, such as abuse or substance abuse that the individual has experienced. The most important factor in treating depression is also often the most difficult - taking that first step and asking for help.

Author's Bio: 

Erika Russina is a Licensed and Board Certified Counselor, with a degree in Clinical Psychology. With over 13 years of experience, Ms. Russina specializes in utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, and poor self-concept. She provides in-office as well as online services for her clients.