When most people think of depression, they think of things such as feeling discouraged after losing a job or sad after someone dies.

Usually these feelings fade after some time. However, for some people depression doesn’t just last for a short time. Their depression is a long-term condition. In this situation, depression can be just as disabling as other physical or psychiatric conditions.

Major depressive disorder is the most disabling form of depression, with the most severe symptoms. Dysthymia is a form of depression that is not as strong as major depression, but has still lasted for at least 2 years. Symptoms of depression include:

• Persistent negative feelings; these feelings can include sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness.
• Irritability and restlessness.
• An inability to enjoy hobbies or pleasurable activities that you used to enjoy. (This specific symptom is known as anhedonia.)
• Difficulty concentrating, using your memory, and coming to decisions.
• General fatigue.
• Problems with sleep patterns, such as not being able to sleep or sleeping too much.
• Problems with appetite, either appetite loss or overeating.
• Physical pains that have no discernable physical cause and do not respond to pain treatment.
• Thoughts of suicide.

Depression can have severe effects on your ability to work. You might be unable to concentrate or think about your work, because the work makes you feel anxious or hopeless or because you can’t focus your mind anymore. You might be too tired to work, either from general fatigue or because your altered sleep and appetite patterns are draining you. Depression strong enough to affect your ability to work will also change the rest of your life, resulting in your not being able to enjoy hobbies or have friendships anymore.

Scientists believe that depression is caused by a combination of environmental, social, and biological factors. Depression can be caused by severe life events, such as the death in the family or extreme stress. MRIs of people with depression show that their brains look different from those without depression. Some combinations of genes have been linked to depression. Sometimes if you have other medical conditions they might affect your depression, so your doctors will probably want to investigate those as well. About 6.7% of American adults have depression. Treatment includes both counseling and medication.

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