Everyone feels blue at one time or another. A death in the family, a disappointment in your career, a romance gone awry--all can cause most people to feel down for a period of time. Grief and sadness are normal reactions to life's stressful events. After a time, however, most people will heal and return to a normal life.
Depression is more than the normal ups and downs of life that we all have. When sadness just won't go away and it begins to interfere with daily life we recognize this as a mood disorder called depression.
Sometimes depression goes unrecognized because it may manifest itself in more ways than just a sad mood. A depressed person may feel any or all of the following emotions: anger, irritability, hopelessness, fear, anxiety, fatigue, numbness, confusion, worthlessness, or shame. A depressed person may also feel physically ill, weak, or in some cases have hallucinations.
Depression can affect every aspect of your life: your physical health, your sleep, your eating habits, your job, and your relationships with friends and family. It affects your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
People with untreated depression may choose to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. They may also relieve their emotional pain by overeating, physically harming themselves (cutting, burning), being sexually promiscuous, or other self-destructive behaviors.
Depression may come on suddenly as result of a stressful event or it may grow slowly over months and years. It may have an apparent cause or it may not seem to have any rhyme or reason. Depressed people suffer from an imbalance in their brain chemistry that makes them especially prone to stress. What may seem a small setback to someone else may be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back for a person prone to depression.
It is very important for those who love a depressed person--as well as the depression person themselves--to understand that a depressed person suffers from a very real illness. A depressed person cannot just "snap out of it" or "cheer up". They are not weak, lazy, defective, or seeking attention. They are ill and need your help.
Like any other illness, depression is treatable. Although there is no "cure" for depression, it is very controllable. There are a wide variety of medications that are effective in treating depression. With medication, therapy, and time, a depressed person can get well and lead a happy and productive life. I'm living proof of that. When I say living, I mean that literally. Depression is also the number one cause of suicide. If you suspect that you or someone you love is depressed, take steps now to get treatment. You may just save a life.