Depression is a condition that is characterized by the presence of at least five of the following nine symptoms for at least two weeks in adults or one week in children or adolescents:
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 or hypersomnia (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 gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month).
How Can I Prevent Depression?
Although depression is a highly treatable condition, some forms of depression may not be preventable. That's because depression may be triggered by a chemical malfunctioning in the brain. However, the latest medical studies confirm that depression may often be alleviated or sometimes prevented with good health habits.
Proper diet, exercise, and taking time out for fun and relaxation, may work together to prevent a depressed mood.
Symptoms of Depression
The National Institute of Mental Health identifies a number of symptoms experienced by people with depression:
Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions.
Fatigue and decreased energy.
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness.
Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism.
Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping.
Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex.
Overeating or appetite loss.
Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings.
Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts.
While these are common symptoms of depression, they may also occur in patterns. For example, a person may experience depression with mania or hypomania -- a condition sometimes called manic depression or bipolar disorder. Or the symptoms may be seasonal as in the case of seasonal affective disorder.
There are several types of manic depression or bipolar disorder. People with bipolar II disorder have at least one episode of major depression and at least one hypomanic -- mild elation or high -- episode. People with bipolar I disorder have a history of at least one manic -- extreme elation or high -- episode, with or without past major depressive episodes. A patient with unipolar depression has major depression only but does not have hypomania or mania.
What Causes Depression?
Many factors or a combination of factors can increase the chance of depression:
Abuse. Past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can cause depression later in life.
Certain medications. For example, some drugs used to treat high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers or reserpine, can increase your risk of depression.
Conflict. Depression may result from personal conflicts or disputes with family members or friends.
Death or a loss. Sadness or grief from the death or loss of a loved one, though natural, can also increase the risk of depression.
Genetics. A family history of depression may increase the risk. It's thought that depression is passed genetically from one generation to the next. The exact way this happens, though, is not known.
Major events. Even positive events such as starting a new job, graduating, or getting married, can lead to depression. So can moving, losing a job or income, getting divorced, or retiring.
Other personal problems. Problems such as social isolation due to other mental illnesses or being cast out of a family or social group can lead to depression.
Serious illnesses. Sometimes depression coexists with a major illness or is a reaction to the illness.
Substance abuse. Nearly 30% of people with substance abuse problems also have major or clinical depression.