Many people think of depression as a kind of mood, but it is also a disorder (less commonly referred to as Major Depressive Disorder).

Depression can have an impact on everyday thoughts and actions, affecting sleep, school, work, appetite, and even relationships.

Depression can affect a wide range of people - 16% of Americans have had depression at some time in their lives and at least 6% experience depression within any given year. This condition's prevelance varies among different genders and ages - meaning children and teenagers may also become depressed.

Females are about twice as likely to have depression than males. It is safely assumed that this is in part due to normal hormonal changes.

Males may be less likely to become depressed, but it is also less likely that males will seek treatment. Often, males will deny the condition and mask the symptoms by drinking. Because of this, males are far more (four times more) likely to commit suicide because of depression than females.

Some common symptoms of depression can include:

  • Feelings of sadness, stress, and/or irritability;
  • Feelings of being worthless, hopeless, and/or guilty;
  • Change in sleep patterns and/or appetite (accompanied by weight changes);
  • Loss of interest/joy in hobbies;
  • Difficulty making decisions or lack of opinion;
  • Thoughts about suicide or dying.

Causes

Like many complicated mental illnesses, depression is not caused by one particular stimuli. Genetics seem to play some role in depression, as depression can run in a family. Stress (such as occupational or financial issues) and trauma (like a relationship break-up or a death in the family) also have a major part in causing depression. It is uncertain whether alcohol and drug abuse is more of a cause or a side effect of depression.

Treatment

Although depression can have a major effect on a person's life, it is very treatable. Antidepressant medication works for many people, but interpersonal therapy is also a treatment technique. Either one or both usually work, however, it takes time (sometimes weeks) to see noticeable mood improvements.