Everyone, at some time or another, feels discouraged or sad.The problem may be more serious when sad feelings don’t go away despite one’s best efforts to cope and the willingness of family and friends to help. When accompanied by other symptoms that last more than a couple of weeks, this down mood may be a sign of serious depression. Depression is actually much more common than most people think. It affects almost 15 million American adults or nearly 7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in any given year. In addition to feeling sad, serious depression can change behavior, physical health and appearance, academic or work performance, and the ability to make decisions and cope with life’s everyday pressures.
Some of the symptoms which characterize a major depressive disorder include overwhelming feelings of sadness and grief; noticeable changes in sleeping patterns; and noticeable changes in appetite, whether it be significant weight gain or weight loss. Many people experience a loss of energy and fatigue with a feeling of worthlessness or helplessness, including a loss of interest in their favorite activities. Difficulty is experienced in concentration and making decisions, and memory may be clouded. Death and suicide may be foremost in the mind of one who is experiencing a major depression.
As with all mental illnesses, there is hope for recovery. Depression is the most treatable of the serious mental illnesses. Nearly eighty percent of persons suffering from depression can have their symptoms relieved quickly with therapy, medication, or a combination of both. The most important step, and many times the most difficult, is asking for help. People with depression need encouragement from family, friends, and at times, from organizations such as Community Alliance, to seek and continue the treatment and support which can ease this pain.
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