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Depression is a very common feeling that is characterized by a wide spectrum of symptoms. It may be an issue in itself, or it may be classed as a symptom of another disease. Depressed moods are normal and natural reactions to certain life events, but when the symptoms are on-going or do not seem to have a particular cause, it may be a mental illness or symptom of another medical condition.


Generally, depression is diagnosed as a period of low mood that can impact a person's behavior, thoughts, feelings, and even physical health. It often includes the sense of unhappiness, worthlessness, stress, irritability, and anxiety. Sufferers may also suffer from a loss of interest in once enjoyable activities, changes in sleep patterns, lethargy, body pains, and upset stomach. While most people experience the symptoms of depression at some point, extended periods require a visit to the doctor to rule out underlying conditions and to prevent the disease from progressing.

Getting Diagnosed

Diagnosing depression as its mental illness largely requires ruling out other underlying causes that can cause low moods. Many psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder include sadness and lack of energy as symptoms. Non-psychiatric conditions like hypothyroidism and mononucleosis may also mimic the symptoms of clinical depression. To rule out such conditions, doctors typically perform through physical exams, obtain the patient's medical history, and perform blood tests. Clinical depression or major depressive disorder is generally diagnosed when depression lasts for a period of at least two weeks without any apparent reason or underlying physical illness.

Treatment Options

The treatment for depression varies depending upon its cause. Often patients are referred to counselors or psychologists for therapy sessions that can make finding the best course of treatment easier. For many people, counseling sessions are needed long-term and may be conducted in groups or one-on-one sessions. There are also several prescription medications on the market for depression. Finding the correct medication and dosage can be difficult and time-consuming even for the best psychiatrists because individuals react to medications differently. Finding the most effective treatment for depression often involves experimentation and patience from both the doctor and the patient. In extreme cases, the patient may be hospitalized until an effective treatment can be found. In general, this only occurs when traditional treatments fail or when a doctor has determined that the patient is a danger to himself or others.

Don’t Go Untreated

When left untreated, depression can have a negative impact on one's physical well-being. It can weaken the body's immune system, making it more susceptible to disease. Besides, severe depressive episodes may lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. When treated by a professional, however, many patients can work through their depression to live happy, functional lives.