Major Depression

Who Gets Depressed?

Major depressive disorder, often referred to as clinical depression, is a common illness that can affect anyone. During any 1 year period, 17.6 million American adults, or 10% of the population, suffer from either a major or minor depression.

What is Depression?

Depression is not just ‘’feeling blue’’ or being ‘’down in the dumps.’’ It is more than being sad or feeling grief after a loss. Depression is an illness (in the same way that diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease and illnesses) that affects your thoughts, feeling, physical health, and behaviors day after day.

Depression may be caused by many things, including the following:

  • Stressful or depression life events
  • Family history and genetics
  • Certain medical illnesses
  • Certain medicines
  • Drugs or alcohol
  • Other psychiatric conditions

Certain life conditions (e.g., extreme stress or grief) may bring on a depression or prevent a full recovery. In some people, depression occurs even when life is going well. Depression is not your fault, nor is it a weakness. It is an illness, it is treatable.

How will I know whether I am Depressed?

People who have major depressive disorder have a number of symptoms nearly every day, all day, for at least 2 weeks. These always include at least one of the following:

  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Feeling sad, blue or down in the dumps

You may also have at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling slowed down or restless and unable to sit still
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Increase or decrease in appetite or weight
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Problems concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or feeling tired all of the time

With depression, other physical or psychological symptoms are often present, including the following:

  • Headaches
  • Other aches and pains
  • Digestive problems
  • Sexual problems
  • Feeling pessimistic or hopeless
  • Being anxious or worried 

How Is Depression Treated?

Depression is treated with psychotherapy (counseling) or medications or with both treatments combined.


The most effective psychotherapies for depression are

  • Cognitive therapy, in which the therapist points out ways that your thinking is negative and may actually cause you to be more depressed.
  • Interpersonal therapy, in which the focus is on improving the quality of your relationships with important people in your life.

Psychotherapy may take one to several months to cure your depression.


Many effective medications for depression exist. The most commonly prescribed are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors SSRI’s), which have names like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Luvox. These are popular because they have very few side effects when compared with older medications.

When someone begins taking an antidepressant, improvement generally will not begin to show immediately. With most of these medications, it will take from 1 to 3 weeks before changes begin to occur. Some symptoms diminish early in treatment: others, later. For instance, a person’s energy level or his sleeping or eating patterns may improve before his depressed mood lifts. If there is little or no change in symptoms after 5 to 6 weeks, a different medication may be tired. Some people will respond better to one than to another. Because there is no way of determining beforehand which medication will be effective, the doctor may have to prescribe first one, than another, until an effective medication is found. Treatment is continued for a minimum of several months and may last up to a year or more.