While we all have feelings of sadness or despair at times, the illness of depression is a medical condition that causes changes in the physical body and brain. Typical symptoms of depression include: sadness, feeling empty or hopeless, irritability or anger, feeling worthless or guilty, no longer having interest or enjoying activities that once brought pleasure, low energy and motivation, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleep and appetite, crying spells, and/or thoughts of death. Depression can distort the way you view yourself, others, and your life.

At its most extreme, a person with depression may be unable to work, interact socially, engage in relationships, or take care of themselves or their families and/or pets. Though depression can look this way at its extremes, the majority of people with depression continue to function well enough that others may not realize they are suffering. It is just that the effort it takes to get through normal daily tasks can feel overwhelming. People with depression may label themselves lazy, unmotivated, and incapable of achieving their goals, wondering why it is so difficult for them to get their lives together, get things done, or function as well as other people appear to. Not recognizing that depression plays a part can have devastating consequences. One’s goals, dreams, relationships, and productivity may be slipping away while all the while self-loathing and hopelessness is growing. Depression leads to a great deal of suffering, and not recognizing and getting help for depression leads to worsened depression and greater suffering. It affects not only the person who has it, but their loved ones as well.

Talking with a therapist can help to determine if you have depression and if so, what type of treatment may be most helpful. There are numerous options for treating depression, many of which do not include medication. Because depression can affect every aspect of a person’s life – including physical health, emotional interactions, significant relationships, work, spiritual connection and a sense of meaning or purpose in life – it is critical to get help.

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