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a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason

Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, or “down in the dumps.” Most of us feel sad, lonely, or depressed at times; and feeling depressed is a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles, or an injured self-esteem. But when these feelings become overwhelming and last for long periods of time, they can prevent us from leading a normal, enjoyable, active life. Depression can change or distort the way you see yourself, your life, and those around you.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some symptoms of depression include difficulty concentrating or remembering details; fatigue; insomnia or excessive sleeping; irritability; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or hopelessness; and loss of interest in activities once considered pleasurable.

The exact cause of depression is not known, but many researchers believe it is caused by chemical changes in the brain. This may be due to a problem with genes, or triggered by some stressful events. Most likely, it’s a combination of both.

Treatment for depression includes talk therapy (psychotherapy) and/or medication. In the case of mild depression, talk therapy may be all that is needed. More severe depression may require medication in addition to talk therapy. It takes time to feel better, but day-to-day improvements are noticeable.