Some people are misguided in thinking that depression is merely a state of mind that people can “snap out of” if they are willing. This is not true. Depression is a real illness, just like heart disease or diabetes. And, as people deal with any chronic disease, they must learn how to recognize depression and control it throughout their lives.
You should not feel embarrassed or ashamed if you feel depressed. You should, however, let your doctor know how you are feeling. If physicians are not aware of all of the symptoms, it is difficult for them to make a diagnosis. There are many effective ways to treat depression and prevent it from interfering with the quality of life. If depression goes untreated, it can turn into a life-threatening disease.
Depression is an illness that causes a disturbance in an individual’s emotions and feelings, what is referred to as mood. Most people experience a down mood from time to time throughout their lives. True depression is suspected when people consistently find themselves in depressed moods every day over a period of two weeks or more. Typically, if people are suffering from depression, their mood will prevent them from living their lives as they normally do. Stressful life events, like a death in the family or financial problems, can trigger depression. Sometimes, people find themselves depressed for no apparent reason.
Most often, depression produces a sad mood. However, some people experience indifference, apathy, loss of pleasure or irritability instead. In addition to disturbing one’s mood, depression can interfere with several basic body functions including changes in sleep, decreased or increased appetite, sluggishness, restlessness, fatigue, loss of concentration and poor memory. People with depression may feel excessive shame or guilt and dwell on thoughts of death or dying, including ideas about suicide.
Depression Throughout History
Even in ancient times depression was recognized as an illness. The Ebers Papyrus, one of the world’s oldest medical documents from ancient Egypt, describes a condition of severe despondency that is equivalent to our modern definition of depression. There are references to depression in the book of Samuel of the Old Testament. Hippocratic writings of the fourth century describe “melancholy” as a condition thought to arise from an imbalance in the humors of the body. And, in addition to many references to depression in literature, many notable philosophers, scientists, politicians, actors and writers have struggled with periods of depression in their lives.