Yes, clinical depression is a serious, but treatable, mental illness. It is a medical condition, not a personal weakness.
It is also very common. Major depression is a clinical syndrome that affects about 6.7% of the U.S. population over age 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Some estimate that major depression may be as high as 15%. Everybody at one point or another will feel sadness as a normal reaction to loss, grief, or injured self-esteem, but clinical depression, called "major depressive disorder" or "major depression" by doctors, is a serious medical illness that needs professional diagnosis and treatment.
As many as three out of every four women will experience the short-term mood
swings known as the "baby blues" after their baby is born. But nearly
12% experience more serious and longer-lasting postpartum depression.
How can you tell the difference between the normal mood changes that will
abate, and those that could mean depression and a need for treatment? How can
you manage postpartum emotions -- whether it's the baby blues or true
depression -- in the colder, darker, and more isolated ...
Yes. Children are subject to the same factors that cause depression in adults. These include: A change in physical health, life events, heredity, or inheritance, environment, and chemical disturbance in the brain. It is estimated that 2.5% of children in the U.S. suffer from depression. In adolescents, it is estimated to be 4% to 8%.
No. Lack of sleep alone cannot cause depression, but it does play a role. Lack of sleep resulting from another medical illness or the presence of personal problems can intensify depression. Chronic inability to sleep is also an important clue that someone may be depressed.
Grief over the loss of a loved one through death, divorce, or separation.
Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
Major life events such as moving, graduating or retiring, etc.
Serious illness. Major, chronic, and terminal illnesses often contribute to depression. These include cancer, heart disease, stroke, HIV, Parkinson's disease, and others.
Substance abuse. Street drugs or heavy alcohol use can cause mood changes that mimic depression or other mood disorders. In addition, some people with substance abuse problems also may have depression, bipolar disorder, or other mood problems even when they are not using mood-altering substances.
Being socially isolated or excluded from family, friends, or other social groups.