Everyone at times feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short lived and passed within couple of days or even hours. For people with clinical depression, their normal functioning is undermined to such an extent that both they and those who care about them are affected by it. 

salma-basharatDepression is common yet serious illness.  Nobody is sure exactly how many people are affected by depression. Health authorities from country to country and even within the same nation publish different figures:

  • The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 6.7% of American adults have had depressive illness during the last 12 months, and 30.4% of these cases (2% of the whole adult population) have severe symptoms.
  • While the National Institute of Mental Health says women are 70% more likely to develop depressive symptoms during their lifetime.
  • About 5 in 100 adults have depression every year. Sometimes it is mild or lasts just few weeks. However, an episode of depression serious enough to require treatment occur in about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men at some point in their lives.

According to the DSM-5, a manual used to diagnose mental disorders, depression occurs when you have at least five of the following symptoms at the same time:

  • A depressed mood during most of the day, particularly in the morning
  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia (an inability to sleep) or hypersonic (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
  • A sense of restlessness or being slowed down
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain

A key sign of depression is either depressed mood or loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. For a diagnosis of depression, these signs should be present most of the day either daily or nearly daily for at least two weeks. In addition, the depressive symptoms need to cause clinically significant distress or impairment.

A number of factors are thought to contribute to the development of depression, including:

Genetics: Some types of  Depression tends to run in families, so researchers believe that certain genes may be associated with developing it.

Brain abnormalities:  Scientists have found that people who are depressed have certain brain characteristics that are different from people who are not depressed. Imbalances of nor epinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine which are brain chemicals called neurotransmitters are thought to be involved with the development of depression.

Stressful situations: Stressful events, such as the loss of a loved one, a major life change, trauma, difficult relationship or a serious illness, have been known to trigger depression. While some people have normal and temporary feelings of sadness and loss after a stressful event, others will experience clinical depression.

Gender:  Because depression affects women more than men — at least two times more often — depression in women could be related to gender-specific factors, like menstrual cycles and pregnancy, or differences in how women and men react to stressful situations.

Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression.