Hartford Hospital

Conditions In Depth

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Depression is a serious condition that involves your body, mood, and thoughts. It can affect the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better.

Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression. People with depression may not recognize that they have a treatable disorder or they may be discouraged from seeking or staying with treatment due to feelings of shame and the associated stigma. Too often, untreated or inadequately treated depression is associated with suicide.

There are several main types of mental disorders which feature depression as a primary symptoms:

Depressive disorders affect more than 19 million Americans. Although depression can affect anyone, women are more likely to have depression than men.

Any type of depression may run in families, suggesting that a biological vulnerability can be inherited. Depression can also occur in people who have no family history of the condition. Additional factors, such as stress at home, work, or school, may trigger depression.

Whether inherited or not, depression is often associated with an imbalance in certain brain chemicals. Very often, a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors is involved in the onset of a depressive disorder. Depression may also result from having a chronic physical illness or from taking or misusing certain medicines or drugs. In people who have suffered a previous episode of depression, another episode may be precipitated by very little or no stress. Depression may also occur in cycles without a precipitating cause.

References:

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2000.

Depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-easy-to-read/depression-trifold.pdf. Accessed July 30, 2012.

Depression: what you need to know. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/information/mental-health-info/depression/depression-what-you-need-to-know/depression-what-you-need-to-know. Accessed July 30, 2012.

Stern T, Rosenbaum J, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch S. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.

Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.