'Every day begins with an act of courage and hope: getting out of bed.'

Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. It is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed and the feeling sad or having a depressed mood. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can affect how a person functions in every day life. Symptoms of depression can range from very mild to severe. For a person to be diagnosed with depression they must last for at least two weeks.

Depression affects an estimated 1 in 15 adults in any given year and 1 in 6 will experience some form of depression at some point in their life. It can occur at any time and happen to anyone, but on average appears during the late teens to mid-20s. Studies show women are more likely than men to experience depression and that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime.

It is important to differentiate between depression and being sad. For example, the feelings after losing a loved one, the ending of a relationship, or the loss of a job are difficult experiences for someone to endure, but the response of the feelings of sadness or grief afterwards is normal. Those who have experienced loss might describe themselves as depressed, but it is not the same as being diagnosed as depressed.

Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment. Almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms.

If you have any of the below symptoms, you may have depression.

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Before a diagnosis or treatment, a health professional should conduct a thorough diagnostic evaluation, including an interview and possibly a physical examination. In some cases, a blood test might be done to make sure the depression is not due to a medical condition like a thyroid problem. The evaluation is to identify specific symptoms, medical and family history, cultural factors and environmental factors to arrive at a diagnosis and plan a course of action.