Many people confuse depression with sadness. According to the American Psychiatric Association, sadness or grief is triggered by a specific event, such as the loss of a loved one, a job loss, or an end of a relationship. The feelings have a specific cause and are often temporary as the triggering event recedes into the past. That is not to say that the feelings that are triggering by such an event are not severe and may even need the intervention of a mental health professional. Feelings brought about by a physical assault or witnessing a catastrophe can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and require therapy to overcome.
Depression is a far different disorder. The feelings of sadness are constant and have no specific triggering event. They can be caused by biochemistry, genetic predisposition, a personality disorder (i.e. low self-esteem) or something constant such as an abusive relationship or an abusive childhood. Sometimes a physical cause exists, such as a brain tumor, a vitamin deficiency, or even a thyroid condition.
Depression can be mild or severe. The condition is characterized by sleep disorders, a lack of energy needed to perform everyday tasks, eating disorders, a constant feeling of worthlessness, and even, in the most extreme cases, thoughts of self-harm or suicide. In general, the feelings must be constant for two weeks to trigger a diagnosis of depression.
Fortunately, depression is one of the more treatable of mental health disorders. Medications, psychotherapy (i.e. talking therapy), and even, in extreme cases, electroconvulsive therapy have been used to treat depression. People living with depression can often be taught exercises to relieve the symptoms. Regular sleep, a good, healthy diet, and avoidance of alcohol help to deal with the feelings of depression. Given treatment, roughly 80 to 90 percent of people with depression can enjoy relief from symptoms.
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