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Almost all of us feel down sometimes, usually because of a disturbing event in our lives. But ongoing depression, suffering for a much longer period of time without any relief, is known as major depression. Depression in some form affects 25 percent of all women, 10 percent of all men, and 5 percent of all adolescents worldwide. It is the most common psychological problem in the United States afflicting over 17 million people.

Depression is not a sign of emotional weakness. It is an illness with physiological as well as psychological causes. Most depression goes undiagnosed and untreated, often because people report only some of their symptoms and doctors fail to consider it as a possibility.

Another reason people go untreated is because society still labels depression as a personal, individual weakness. Who would want to go to a doctor because they are feeling so terribly depressed, only to have others look at them as weak human beings that should just be able to snap out of it? I'm sure that it can be very difficult for people to empathize with such terrible emotional feelings if they have never felt them before. Although, thoughts about the disease have come a long way. Years ago, they used to think anyone with any kind of mental illness was a witch and they would keep them in a separate part of the house, or they would be institutionalized.

Depression is a serious condition that can lead to an inability to function or even to suicide. Sufferers experience not only a depressed mood, but also many more symptoms, including disinterest in their usual activities, extreme fatigue, sleep problems, feelings of guilt, helplessness and hopelessness. It is a cyclical illness that can appear out of the blue for no apparent reason, and even though most people recover from their first depressive episode, the recurrance rate is high. Because of its disabling effects and possibility of suicide, depression needs to be treated as quickly as possible.

If you or someone you know is depressed, or showing signs of depression, you should make an appointment with a medical doctor as soon as possible to rule out other causes other than emotional, such as thyroid or nutrient deficiencies. Once depression has been diagnosed, it is a good idea to seek counseling with a local therapist. You can get a reference from a friend, doctor, yellow pages, or you can call your insurance provider and ask who they cover in your area. The therapist will most likely refer you to a psychiatrist if he or she feels that you need medication. The psychiatrist will do an evaluation on you and decide which anti-depressant would be best for you depending on your symptoms. Keep in mind one very important thing; it can take several weeks to a little more than a month for an antidepressant to build up in your system before you will feel the results. Unfortunately, it takes time to see if the drug is actually the right one for you. If it is, you should begin to notice significant mood changes including less crying, and increased motivation. In fact, family and friends might notice the change in your mood before you do. Most of the newer anti-depressants have little to no side effects and have a relatively high efficacy rate.

It is not reccommended that someone choose one or the other; either see a therapist or seek medicine. Both should be done simutaneously. If there is an underlying problem that is causing you to be emotionally upset and all you do is take an antidepressant, you could feel better, but when you discontinue use of the drug, the depressed feelings will more than likely come back with a vengence because the underlying "problem" has not been dealt with. Even if the cause is completely biochemical, you should still include counseling into your life because it can be very difficult to deal with the emotions alone.

A therapist may recommend that you have a famiy meeting. This will bring a few choice family members into a meeting so the therapist can explain your illness, and also so they have a better idea of how to help you and how to be supportive while you are going through these tough times. This is not something that is absolutely required for your feeling better, but it is a great option if you would like to involve others who care about you.

Most of all, make sure you seek help. It takes a strong person to overcome the stigma of depression and to get help. Someone who tries to cure the problem on their own in most cases will only get worse. Depression is a medical illness just like any other illness that affects parts of your body, and it shouldn't be thought of any other way. Lets use diabetes for example. If you were diagnosed with diabetes, wouldn't you seek medical treatment, and if that treatment included taking insulin on a daily basis, don't you think that most everyone would take the insulin?

Make that first step to recovery by contacting someone to help you and you will be on your way to feeling better. Once you get to the point where you are feeling like your old self again, you will be kicking yourself for not doing something sooner. Take advantage of the help that is available to you. Seek out the help that you deserve to gain happiness back into your life again. It may seem difficult at first, but once you start feeling better you have nowhere to go but up, and you deserve it!

Always remember to ask for immediate help if you star thinking about suicide.