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Every year approximately 15 million Americans suffer from an episode of major depression. The most common form of major depression is bipolar disorder, which occurs in 3% of the adult population in the US.

What is Depression?

Females experience depression two times more often than men and over the period of a woman’s lifetime, some 12% of adult females will experience an episode of clinical depression.  Around 80% of people with clinical depression are currently untreated and 80-90% of the homeless population lives with a serious form of mental illness. 

Depression is defined as a state of low mood and is best described as a dysfunction.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a person with depression as one who experiences feelings of helplessness, extreme sadness and hopelessness.  The biological influences of depression vary, but certain factors which can influence the condition include illness, substance abuse, alcoholism, hormonal deficiency, heredity, malnutrition, seasons, stress, illness and aerosol exposure.

What Causes Depression?

Depression can be an extremely complex and difficult disease to understand for a variety of different reasons.  There are a number of various factors which can directly increase the chances of a person developing depression which can include the following:

  • Certain medications:  hypertensive medications and certain illegal substances can contribute to episodes of depression.
  • Abuse:  physical, sexual or emotional abuse can increase a person’s chances of developing depression.
  • Conflict:  personal conflicts or familial disputes can all contribute to the development of depression.
  • Death or loss:  feelings of grief or sadness can increase the risk of depression occurring.
  • Substance abuse:  approximately 30% of people who have a substance abuse issue experience episodes of clinical or major depression.
  • Serious or chronic illness:  in certain instances depression co-exist with a major illness or in response to an illness.
  • Major/life changing events:  even happy events such as a new job, getting married or graduation can lead a person to experience depression much the same as losing a job, getting divorced or retiring can make someone depressed.
  • Genetics:  a family history of depression can increase the risk of someone developing depression.  Some experts feel that depression can be passed from one generation to the next, though the exact mechanism of action is unknown.
  • Other personal problems:  problems such as social isolation, poor coping skills, low self-esteem or being cast out from family or friends can lead someone to become depressed.

Different Types of Depression

There are many different types of depressed moods which can be classified as a psychological disorder, which includes the following:

  • Major depressive disorders
  • Depressive disorders not otherwise specified
  • Dysthymia 
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Postnatal Depression
  • Cyclothmyia
  • Bulumia Nervosa
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Adjustment Disorder
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder

What are the Symptoms of Depression?

The following signs and symptoms can be indicative of someone experiencing clinical depression:

  • Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Inability to maintain focus on a project or task that would otherwise be easy
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Not able to control negative thoughts
  • Loss of appetite or increase in appetite
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Thoughts of suicide

Depression varies from person to person and nobody is going to have the same exact symptoms.  It should be remembered that the symptoms of depression can also be attributed to the low points experienced in everyday life.  But the more symptoms a person experiences, the sooner a mental healthcare professional should be consulted because it could be indicative of depression if the symptoms interfere with everyday life and have persisted for a long period of time.

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