Everyone experiences sadness at times. But depression is something more. Depression is extreme sadness or despair that lasts more than days. It interferes with the activities of daily life and can even cause physical pain. Fortunately, depression is highly treatable.
Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. In 2014, an estimated 15.7 million adults in the U.S. — about 6.7 percent of all U.S. adults — had at least one major depressive episode, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Depression affects different people in different ways, but most of them experience some combination of the following symptoms:
- Prolonged sadness or feelings of emptiness.
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
- Anger and irritability.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Appetite changes.
- Chronic pain, headaches or stomachaches.
- Loss of interest in activities.
- Withdrawal from friends and family.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
Depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, social and environmental factors. People who have a family history of depression, and people with serious chronic diseases such as heart disease or cancer, are at an increased risk of depression. Major life changes, trauma and stress can also bring about an episode of depression, although some episodes of depression begin without any obvious external cause.