Most people have felt sad or depressed at times. Feeling depressed can be a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles, or an injured self-esteem.
But when feelings of intense sadness — including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless — last for many days to weeks and keep you from functioning normally, your depression may be something more than sadness. It may very well be clinical depression — a treatable medical condition.
For major depression, you may experience five or more of the following symptoms for at least a two-week period:
- Persistent sadness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, including sex
- Difficulty concentrating and complaints of poor memory
- Worsening of co-existing chronic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Weight gain or loss
- Fatigue, lack of energy
- Anxiety, agitation, irritability
- Thoughts of suicide or death
- Slow speech; slow movements
- Headache, stomachache, and digestive problems
It is estimated that, by the year 2020, major depression will be second only to ischemic heart disease in terms of the leading causes of disability in the world. But people with depression sometimes fail to realize (or accept) that there is a physical cause to their depressed moods. As a result, they may search endlessly for external causes.