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Feeling Depressed - Topic Overview

Life 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 lives.

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 physical abilities.
  • Personal or family history. You are more likely to experience feelings of depression if you have a history of previous depression, an 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.
  • Medical problems—such as cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, or Parkinson's disease—or alcohol or substance abuse or withdrawal.
  • Stressful life events, such as changing jobs, the loss of a job, or children leaving home.
  • Lack of family or social support.
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