People commonly say, "I don't know, I'm just a little depressed today." We all have days when things seem off and we're feeling a little blue. But, in most cases, the sun shines the following day, what was bothering us has disappeared and we're feeling fine again. However, in some cases, those feelings of sadness don't just go away. It's important to be able to recognize what true depression is and to get it treated.
Why does it matter? For starters, untreated depression greatly increases an individual's risk of suicide, and suicide is this nation's 10th leading cause of death and the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24. Almost half a million people visited U.S. hospitals last year due to self-inflicted harm.
So while it's obvious that serious depression can be a health problem not to be ignored, far too few people recognize depression in themselves, or someone close to them, and seek treatment. That's unfortunate because most serious depression is highly treatable and, unlike a cold or the flu, is not simply going to away on its own.
What is depression? Actually, it can come in several forms, some more serious than others. Around this time of the year, for example, many people will experience "seasonal depression," those sad or blue feelings that accompany the coming of autumn, shorter days and cooler weather. It's usually a mild form of depression and one that's relatively easy to treat.
"Postpartum depression" is a common problem for many women after giving birth. They tend to experience stress, sadness, loneliness and exhaustion, especially during the first couple of weeks after the new baby's arrival. Again, it's a form of depression that can be treated.
"Clinical depression" can be a very serious problem. It's not only feeling sad, but is usually characterized by a lack of energy to do even routine tasks. It can make ordinary life difficult or impossible to live successfully.
Seek help if you, or someone close to you, and especially if that someone is a young person, is experiencing feelings of sadness, worthlessness and loss of interest in normal life, and it has been going on for several weeks. A counseling professional can offer a wide range of techniques and tools to help overcome the problems that depression brings, and to help the person return to a happy, productive life.