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Depression, also called Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.

What does depression look like?

Depression is characterized by a sad or low mood that persists for two weeks or more. Symptoms of depression vary with each person. Common symptoms include:

  • Changes in sleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of energy
  • Lack of interest
  • Low self esteem
  • Hopelessness
  • Changes in movement
  • Physical aches and pains

What causes depression?

Depression can be triggered or occur without cause or association to a crisis, illness or other risk factor. However, some events or behaviors put you at a higher risk for depression:

  • Trauma. Trauma in childhood can change how you react to fear and stress in the long term. This may explain why people who experience trauma early in life are more likely to experience depression (NAMI).
  • Genetics. Mood disorders like depression can run in families.
  • Life circumstances. Where you live, your financial status, and other life circumstances can increase risk of developing depression.
  • Brain structure. Differences and changes in certain chemicals in your brain can cause symptoms of depression.
  • Other medical conditions. People who experience chronic illness or a co-occurring mental disorder are more likely to have depression.
  • Drug and alcohol misuse. Depression often coincides with substance use or Substance Use Disorder (SUD).

How do I know if I have depression?

If you have noticed symptoms of depression in your everyday life, reach out to your doctor. They can determine your diagnosis and help you get connected to treatment options.

Depression is often responsive to treatment, but treatment plans differ for each person. It is important to build a treatment plan with your doctor that fits your lifestyle. A treatment plan might include:

  • Medication
  • Psychotherapy
  • Brain stimulation therapies
  • Exercise
  • Self-care strategies