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What Is Depression?

A diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder is given if an individual has been depressed for at least two weeks and if the person is obviously not functioning as previously. The person demonstrates problems at home, work or in relationships. For example, they might suddenly lay in bed all day and not participate in their normal activities. They might feel that they do not have enough energy to attend work or do homework. They might seem very withdrawn. In teens or children, instead of seeming sad, they could seem irritable with angry outbursts.

Symptoms of depression include pervasive feelings of sadness, tearfulness, decreased interest in daily activities, appetite changes, sleep changes, agitation or lethargy, fatigue, decreased energy, low self esteem, feelings of worthlessness, excessive guilt, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, loneliness, poor concentration, confusion, indecisiveness, repeated thoughts of death, or contemplation of suicide. Occasionally depressed people experience psychosis (delusions, hallucinations or disorientation).

While you might be able to notice these symptoms yourself, it could also help to ask a family member or loved one if they have observed any recent changes in you. Depression can be a chemical problem in the brain, can be a component of bipolar disorder, can be postpartum development or might be the result of a life crisis. Major depressive disorder might occur only once in a person's life or it may be repeated.

When someone is seriously depressed, then it is time to call a therapist or medical doctor. If you, or someone you know, are considering suicide, then call 911, visit the emergency room, or use a suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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