Major Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States, for people ranging from 15 to 44 years old, affecting more than 14.8 million people a year! But what causes this debilitating condition? The precise cause of Major Depression is not known, but research suggests a family history of depression. Having a family member who has committed suicide may also increase one's risk. Major Depression is also associated with serious medical illnesses, like cancer or AIDS, and with long-term use of some medications. Certain personality traits, such as lacking self-confidence or having a negative outlook on life may also increase the risk of depression. Imaging studies suggest that actual physical changes take place in the brain when a person suffers from Major Depression. In addition, people with depression typically have reduced levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, which plays an important role in regulating mood. What distinguishes Major Depression is the number and severity of symptoms. Diagnosis involves the presence of five or more depression symptoms that persist for at least two weeks. However, it's important to see a health care provider first to rule out any underlying medical condition. Treatment for depression typically involves medication and psychotherapy. However, rather than either therapy on its own, studies suggest the best results are achieved when antidepressant drugs and/or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used in combination with therapy. About two-thirds of people who suffer from Major Depression recover completely. Those, however, who don't experience a complete recovery, may be at higher risk for experiencing additional depressive episodes. Untreated, the frequency and severity of depression symptoms may increase. Other complications may include severe problems at home, at school, in the workplace, and with one's finances. Suicidal thoughts are common among people suffering from Major Depression, and up to 15 percent ultimately take their own lives. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, it's imperative to call 911 or a suicide hotline immediately! Major Depression can be overwhelming for everyone concerned, but there are treatments that can help. If you, or someone you know, is suffering from depression, please consult a mental health professional.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012