Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a common and serious mood disorder that affects how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities. It is more than just feeling sad or going through a temporary bout of melancholy; it's a deep, pervasive sense of despair that can be debilitating.

Key Symptoms of Depression

  1. Persistent Sadness or Low Mood: This is often the most recognizable symptom.
  2. Loss of Interest or Pleasure: Individuals may lose interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed.
  3. Changes in Appetite and Weight: Significant weight loss or gain when not dieting can occur.
  4. Sleep Disturbances: This can include both insomnia or sleeping too much.
  5. Fatigue or Loss of Energy: Everyday tasks take extra effort due to a pervasive feeling of tiredness.
  6. Feelings of Worthlessness or Excessive Guilt: Harsh criticism of perceived faults and mistakes.
  7. Difficulty Thinking, Concentrating, or Making Decisions: Tasks requiring focus become challenging.
  8. Physical Symptoms: Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment.
  9. Thoughts of Death or Suicide: This includes thinking about suicide without a plan, making a plan, or attempting suicide.

Causes and Risk Factors

Depression is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Risk factors include:

  • Family history of depression
  • Major life changes, trauma, or stress
  • Certain physical illnesses and medications

It's important to recognize that depression is treatable, and many people who receive treatment go on to lead healthy, active lives. If someone is experiencing symptoms of depression, they should seek help from a healthcare provider, as early intervention can lead to more effective management of the condition.