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Everyone suffers from symptoms of depression from time to time. It's a natural defense mechanism that allows the mind to take a rest by causing an individual to withdraw from reality for a day or two. But for some people, the withdrawal is deeper and lasts longer. It interferes with their lives and can lead them to substance abuse or suicide as a means of escape. When this happens, a person is said to have a mental illness called depression.

Types of depression.

There are three types of depression:

Note: Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by extreme mood swings from mania (excessive excitement or joy) to deep depression with many of the same symptoms and causes as depression, but requiring a different course of treatment. 

Who is affected 
One in five people suffers from depression at some point in their life. Depression can strike anyone, even children and babies who have been abused or neglected. Middle-aged adults, however, are more likely to become depressed than any other age group. While depression is often associated with loneliness, married people are more likely to become depressed than single people. Women are twice as likely as men to become depressed.

 The symptoms of depression range from

All of us at some time experience one or more of these symptoms. But when they become persistent (lasting longer than two weeks) and/or so severe that pain and other problems outweigh pleasure much of the time, then it is time to seek professional help. 
Concerned you might be suffering from depression?  Click here to take a fast, free screening.

There is no one cause for depression. Personality, personal relationships, physical health, and genetics are all factors. People who are highly self-critical, very demanding, or unusually passive may be prone to depression. Problems with a romantic partner, a child, or an employer can cause depression. Imbalances in the chemicals in the brain due to illness, infection, or medications can be a cause. Substance abuse can be a symptom of depression, but also a cause. And while depression cannot be inherited, it does seem to be more prevalent in some families.

As with most illnesses, treatment is easiest and most effective when begun early. A combination of the following is often used:

Depression cannot always be avoided, but because it is often related to stress and physical problems, it is possible to lessen the chances of becoming severely depressed. Here are some tips: 

People with depression or any mental illness also face the stigma attached by society to these illnesses. This stigma causes discrimination against people with a mental illness in employment, housing, and health care. By learning more about mental illness and the effectiveness of treatment, this discrimination can end, removing the stigma that acts as a barrier to successful treatment.

Severe depression sometimes leads to a suicide attempt. Suicide threats or attempts must be taken seriously even if there is no intent to actually die. Warning signs include making out a will, giving away personal possessions, saying goodbye or suicide preparations, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills. If you become concerned that a depressed person may be thinking of suicide, ASK THEM IMMEDIATELY. Here are ways to help: 

Adapted from information from the Missouri Advisory Council for Comprehensive Psychiatric Services.