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Depression is a mood disorder that often causes overwhelming and persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in everyday life. It can affect how you act, how you feel, and even how you think. Left unchecked, it can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

Genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors may be some of the causes of depression. This area is still being studied. We do know that depression is common. It is estimated that 35 million U.S. adults have had depression at some point in their lives. Depression occurs twice as frequently in women as in men.

Depression seems to run in families, but anyone can get it. It is believed that it is associated with the levels of the chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Not everyone has the same experience with depression. The severity and frequency of episodes vary. Some common symptoms of depression are:

  • Sleep difficulties, including insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Decreased energy
  • Hopelessness
  • Guilt
  • Unworthiness
  • Helplessness
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed
  • Overeating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Persistent aches or pains
  • Persistent sad feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide

Depression is much more than a case of the blues. And it is not a weakness or something you can think away. You can’t just “snap out of it.” It may require long-term treatment. But most people with depression do feel better with medication, psychological counseling or both. Other treatments, such as dietary supplements, also may help.