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Definition of Depression

Depression is a brain-based medical illness that affects over 18 million adults in the United States in any given year. It can make it difficult for people to live happy and productive lives, cause problems with eating and sleeping, and can negatively affect how people feel about themselves and their relationships with family and friends. Depression frequently occurs with other disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit disorder, disruptive behaviors, substance abuse, as well as with medical illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Major Types of Depression

Three types of depressive disorders are most common:

  • A major depression interferes with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Such a disabling episode may happen only once in a lifetime, but more commonly it occurs several times.
  • Dysthymia is the term used to describe long-term symptoms that, while not disabling, keep one from functioning well or feeling good.
  • Another type of depressive condition is bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, which is characterized by severe highs (mania) and lows (depression).

What Causes Depression?

Depression is believed to have more than one single cause. We know that genetics plays a major role as depression has been found to run in families. Depression also seems to happen with no warning following a stressful situation, personal loss, feelings of guilt, or after suffering from abuse or neglect. Depression often develops in connection with addictions, other psychiatric disorders or other medical illnesses such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes.