A: Depression is a very common problem. The lifetime prevalence of major depression in U.S. adults has been estimated at 17 percent. It can affect any age group, from children and adolescents to the elderly.
Depression seems to be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain. There is also a strong genetic component. It may be triggered by life stressors such as loss of a loved one, loss of a job or divorce. It’s important to note that it is not due to lack of willpower, laziness or personal weakness.
Common symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, often with frequent crying spells, losing interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy (including hobbies, sex), feeling increasingly worthless or helpless, unintended weight loss or gain (often due to appetite changes), sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, excessive fatigue/feeling tired all the time, decreased motivation or new aches or pains that don’t get better with treatment.
Treatment for depression includes either counseling or medications or both. Combination therapy is most effective for the majority of cases.
Depression can usually be treated with visits to your medical provider, but in some cases hospitalization is necessary if there are serious thoughts of suicide. If you have thoughts of harming yourself, tell someone. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is always available as well: 1-800-273-8255. Even if your symptoms are not that severe, the bottom line is you must talk to your medical provider about your symptoms so you can get help.