Common Health Problems  »  Mental Health Conditions


Depression is a state of sadness and despair. Like diabetes, depression is a real medical illness.

Signs & Symptoms

  1. Feeling sad, hopeless, helpless, and/or worthless.

  2. Fatigue. Loss of interest in life.

  3. Having a hard time concentrating or making decisions.

  4. Changes in eating and sleeping patterns.

  5. Acting very cranky. Anger. Anxiety.

  6. Thoughts of suicide or death.

The number of symptoms and how severe they are vary from person to person.


Most likely, depression is caused by a mix of: A family history of the illness; brain chemical problems; emotional issues; and other factors, such as a medical illness or alcohol abuse.

Another cause is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). With this, depression occurs between late fall and early spring due to a lack of natural sunlight.

In some persons, extreme stress, grief, etc. may bring on depression. In others, depression occurs even when life is going well.

Life After Depression - How have things changed?

Self-Care / Prevention

  1. Take medications as prescribed. Get your doctor’s advice before you take over-the-counter herbs, such as St. John’s Wort, especially if you take other medications.

  2. Don’t use illegal drugs. Limit alcohol. These can cause or worsen depression. Drugs and alcohol can also make medicines for depression work less. Harmful side effects can happen when alcohol and/or drugs are mixed with medicine.

  3. Eat healthy foods. Eat at regular times. Get regular exercise.

  4. Try not to isolate yourself. Be with people you trust and feel safe with, even though you feel down.

  5. Do something you enjoy.

  6. Keep an emergency number handy (e.g., crisis hotline, trusted friend’s number, etc.) in case you feel desperate.

  7. If you have thoughts of suicide, remove any weapons, pills, etc. that could be used for suicide and get medical help.

Questions to Ask

Have you had a lot less interest or pleasure in almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day for at least 2 weeks?

Has depression kept you from doing daily tasks for more than 2 weeks and caused you to withdraw from normal activities?

Have you been depressed most of the day, nearly every day and had any of these problems for at least 2 weeks?

  1. Feeling hopeless, worthless, guilty, slowed down, or restless.

  2. Changes in appetite or weight.

  3. Thoughts of death or suicide.

  4. Problems concentrating, thinking, remembering, or making decisions.

  5. Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.

  6. Feeling tired all of the time.

  7. Headaches or other aches and pains.

  8. Digestive problems.

  9. Sexual problems.

  10. Feeling anxious or worried.

Are you feeling depressed now and do any of the following apply?

  1. You have been depressed before and not received treatment or you have been treated for depression in the past and it has returned.

  2. You have taken medication for depression in the past.

  3. A close relative has a history of depression.

Has the depression occurred as the result of any of the following?

  1. Taking over-the-counter or a prescribed medication.

  2. Abusing alcohol or drugs.

  3. A medical problem.

  4. Recent delivery of a baby.

During holiday times, do you withdraw from family and friends and/or dwell on past holidays to the point that it interferes with your present life?

Have you just attempted suicide, written a suicide note, or are you planning suicide? Do you have persistent thoughts of suicide or death?

Does the depression come with dark, cloudy weather or winter months and does it lift when spring comes?


International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (IFRED)

800.442.HOPE (4673)  |

Mental Health America (MHA)


National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse

800.553.4539  |


Treatment includes medication(s), counseling, and self-care measures. Persons who are depressed should see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.