It is not unusual to hear people in the midst of conversation state that they are feeling "depressed", "a little depressed," or "depressed about.........." There is quite a difference between a "case of the blues," (feeling sad once in awhile, or sad about something) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

Many people and organizations use the word depressed too lightly, and it causes confusion about the true meaning of depression and its causes. If a person is feeling "a little bit down in the dumps," and it is a short-term and infrequent occurrence, he/she should not refer to himself/herself as depressed. This is the primary reason for the misunderstanding and ambiguity surrounding this disease.

People who suffer from MDD, also referred to as clinical depression, do not simply choose to have a negative attitude or to feel sorry for themselves. For them, it is not merely a matter of "getting over it," "snapping out of it," or "looking on the bright side."

What it Is

Depression is a real and serious mental illness that has physiological, and psychological causes. Although it can be temporary in some cases, more often than not-particularly when left untreated-it lasts a significant amount of time and is recurring.

True depression does not require a specific reason. Those who suffer from it often feel hopeless and as though life is meaningless, regardless of their circumstances.

Symptoms of MDD include little to no energy, motivation, or enthusiasm for anything. Clinical depression is often accompanied by anxiety or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Other symptoms of depression and/or anxiety are: insomnia or hypersomnia (too little or too much sleep), low self-esteem, excessive weight loss or gain, psychosomatic pain(s) that cannot be attributed to a physical cause, and suicidal thoughts and/or attempts.

Depression affects all types of people from every background. Documented cases are twice as high for women, although this may have something to do with men's tendency to keep their feelings to themselves and not seek help. It is widely believed that this is the reason that suicide rates are much higher for men in all age groups; in some groups they may be as high as 5 to 1.

What it Does

When unrecognized, untreated, or ineffectively treated, the consequences of major depression are substantial and devastating to those directly affected, their loved ones, and society as a whole. Even the economy is negatively affected by MDD. On average, those with untreated depression lose four times as many work hours due to absenteeism than co-workers who do not suffer from the disease.

When unrecognized, depression and anxiety can increase healthcare costs, as those affected may have problems sustaining long term employment and benefits or-in the case of those with insurance-the act of continually seeking treatment for symptoms related to the disease (like frequent illness, hypochondria, or psychosomatic pain), rather than the anxiety or depression itself.

Other social consequences include lost potential, poverty, illegal drug or alcohol abuse, and family dysfunction.

What Causes It

The most likely cause is neurological. Neurotransmitters are present in the brain and affect nearly all of our behavior and functioning. Depression is said to be related to the amounts of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine produced and absorbed by the brain, and the rate at which this occurs. When there is an imbalance, problems result.

Hormones, genetics, trauma, loss, abuse, chemicals, and illness are all things that may create an imbalance. This imbalance may cause a temporary or a permanent change in the brain's chemistry. This is why some people may benefit from only temporary antidepressant therapy, and others require antidepressants on an ongoing basis.

Effective Treatment

Most health professionals agree that for genuine Major Depressive Disorder to be effectively treated, medical and/or psychiatric care is required. A combination of antidepressant medication, and psychotherapy is believed to be the best way to win the fight against depression and anxiety disorders.

What to Do

If you believe that you or a loved one suffers from Major Depressive Disorder (clinical depression), or anxiety disorder, get help. Do not allow pride or indifference to keep you from living and enjoying your life. No matter how you may feel, there are people who care. is dedicated to helping those suffering from emotional stress, anxiety and depression symptoms.

Author's Bio: 

Popa Woolsey writes about improving your physical and mental health. Popa is also a teacher writer and a personal motivational coach.