is full of changes. Everyday events and our reactions to them sometimes
interfere with our sense of well-being and peace of mind. It is common to get
the blues or become sad when disappointed. Symptoms of
depression are the most common medical problems seen
by health professionals. It is estimated that feelings of depression will
affect about one-third of all adults in the United States at some time in their
Most people experience feelings of sadness over such losses
as divorce or separation, the death of a friend or loved one, or a job change
or layoff. These feelings are an expected reaction to a "triggering event," and
most people get over them in time.
Several factors increase your
risk of developing feelings of depression, such as:
- Being female. Women are twice as likely as men to
experience feelings of depression. Hormonal changes may play a role in these
feelings, which may be more evident during pregnancy, especially shortly after
the birth of a baby (postpartum depression) or shortly
before or during
menopause. Some women experience feelings of sadness
or depression shortly before the start of menstruation (premenstrual syndrome, or PMS).
- Age older than 60. Feelings of depression in this
age group are frequently overlooked because the symptoms are similar to other
diseases and problems experienced by older adults. Adults in this age group are
more likely to experience social isolation. Feelings of sadness may accompany
other life events, such as retirement, death of a spouse or child, or declining
- Personal or family history. You are more likely
to experience feelings of depression if you have a history of previous
anxiety disorder, or another mental illness. You are
also 2 to 3 times more likely to experience feelings of depression if one or
both of your parents were diagnosed with depression.
problems—such as cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, or
Parkinson's disease—or alcohol or substance abuse or
- Stressful life events, such as changing jobs, the loss
of a job, or children leaving home.
- Lack of family or social
Symptoms of depression that may point to a need for treatment
vary from person to person. If you experience feelings of sadness or loss of
interest in pleasurable activities plus 4 or more of the following symptoms for
2 weeks or longer, you may be depressed.
- Changes in appetite or
- Restlessness or decreased activity that is noticed by
- Feeling tired or sleepy all of the time
sleeping or sleeping more than usual
- Inability to concentrate or
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of
worthlessness or guilt
- Preoccupation with death or recurrent
thoughts of suicide
People who feel depressed may also have physical symptoms,
such as body aches or stomach problems.
Because "mood swings" and
other emotional changes are considered a normal part of growing up, depression
in children and teens often goes unrecognized. Children and teens do develop
depression, and it can affect a child's quality of life. If prolonged or severe
depression is left untreated, it can lead to serious outcomes, including
suicide attempts and even completed suicide. If you are thinking about suicide, talk to someone about your feelings, such as your health professional or a close friend or family member you trust. Don't wait. If you are not able to talk with your health professional immediately, call your local suicide hotline or this suicide hotline (Canada and U.S.): 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255.
Depression is the most important risk factor for suicide. For more
information, see the topic
Check your symptoms
to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
November 27, 2012
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