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Home > > Health & WellnessWhat is Depression?

What is Depression?

Depression is a common medical condition with very specific symptoms that impair a person's ability to carry on with normal life activities, such as work and relationships. Depression can affect a person's mood, outlook on life, behavior, and bodily functions. Feelings of anxiety or a sense that something terrible is going to happen often go hand-in-hand with depression.

Common Symptoms of Depression

  • Feeling down
  • Excessive irritability, sadness, and
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Worry and/or self-criticism
  • Dissatisfaction with life
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or
    making decisions
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Feeling useless, helpless or hopeless
  • Substance abuse

What Causes Depression?

Many experts believe that depression is caused by an imbalance in the level of certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. There is now effective treatment for this condition. Depression may also be triggered by external events such as an upsetting life event (health or financial difficulties), death of a loved one, or the loss of a job.

Depression is more likely if the following factors are present:

  • Family history - There appears to be an "inherited" component to many cases of depression. If other people in your family have ever been depressed, you may be more likely to experience depression.
  • Illnesses, medications and alcohol - Certain medical illnesses such as stroke and thyroid problems put a person at increased risk of developing depression. Sometimes depression is a side effect of medications for high blood pressure or birth control pills, among others. Alcohol is also a well-known contributing factor to depression.

How Can I Get Help?

Every case of depression is unique. Whatever the cause, it's important to remember that depression is not your fault and nobody else is to blame either. To ease the symptoms of depression, you can:

  • Try something new (take a class or find a hobby)
  • Set smaller goals
  • Exercise (for example, take a brisk walk)
  • Break large tasks into smaller ones
  • Keep busy with friends and family
  • Let go of that long list of "shoulds" and try not to be too hard on yourself
  • Join group therapy in your community

If you or a family member suspect depression, get help by calling HAP's Coordinated Behavioral Health Management Department (CBHM) at 1-800-444-5755 or complete our online contact form and one of our nurses will personally contact you. CBHM services are confidential and emergency help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you or a family member is thinking of suicide, get help at the nearest emergency room.

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