Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad, but these feelings are usually fleeting and pass within a couple of days. When a person has a depressive disorder, it interferes with daily life, with normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her. Depression is a common but serious illness, and most who experience it need treatment to get better.
Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the vast majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Intensive research into the illness has resulted in the development of medications, psychotherapies, and other methods to treat people with this disabling disorder.
It affects how you think and behave and can cause a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may not be able to go about your usual daily activities, and depression may make you feel as if life just isn't worth living anymore.
Signs and Symptoms:
People with depressive illnesses do not all experience the same symptoms. The severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness.
• persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
• feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
• feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
• irritability, restlessness
• loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
• fatigue and decreased energy
• difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
• insomnia, early morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
• overeating, or appetite loss
• thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
• persistent aches, pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
Before puberty, boys and girls are equally likely to develop depressive disorders. By age 15, however, girls are twice as likely as boys to have experienced a major depressive episode.
Depression in adolescence comes at a time of great personal change—when boys and girls are forming an identity distinct from their parents, grappling with gender issues and emerging sexuality, and making decisions for the first time in their lives. Depression in adolescence frequently co occurs with other disorders, such as anxiety, disruptive behavior, eating disorders, or substance abuse. It can also lead to increased risk for suicide.
A National Institute of Mental Health funded clinical trial of 439 adolescents with major depression found that a combination of medication and psychotherapy was the most effective treatment option. Other NIMH funded researchers are developing and testing ways to prevent suicide in children and adolescents, including early diagnosis and treatment, and a better understanding of suicidal thinking.