What Is Depression?

Everyone feels down or sad at times. But those feelings usually pass after a little while. Depression, on the other hand, is an illness that involves both the mind and the body, affecting how someone thinks and behaves. When someone suffers from a depressive disorder, it interferes with daily life. Studies show that approximately 19 million American suffer from depression in a one-year period. That is nearly 9.5 percent of the population. And although most people with depression never seek help, the vast majority can get better with treatment.

Depression often runs in the family, whether it’s due to genes, learned behavior or both. Naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that are directly linked to mood are thought to play a role in depression. Gender, age and cultural background all factor in to how depression can affect someone. Stressful life events – such as alcohol or drug abuse, the death of a loved one, social isolation (a leading cause of depression in the elderly) or sleeping problems – can also cause depression.

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