Depression is a mental health condition that can afflict individuals at any stage of life and can cause debilitating impairment of work, social, and family life. The symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness and hopelessness, low self-esteem or self-worth, appetite and sleep disturbances (either increased or decreased), and general loss of enjoyment in previously pleasurable activities.

People who have depression often don’t realize that their symptoms are actually a treatable mental illness, and so they are prone to trying to alleviate those symptoms by using drugs or alcohol and can thereby develop secondary addictions. Depression can develop slowly, or hit rapidly, and can be either persistent and chronic, or recurrent over time.

Depression can have staggering effects on an individual’s life, leading to loss of work, withdrawal from family and friends, and even increased risk of suicide. Depression can also have harmful effects on an individual’s physical health as the motivation and energy for self-care diminishes.

Although depression is a very serious mental illness, the good news is that there are a number of very effective treatments for depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to have excellent short and long term efficacy in treating depression, as well as other forms of counseling. Also, physicians can prescribe medications that improve the symptoms of depression.

These treatments, along with improving one’s general health through exercise, healthy diet, and good sleep habits, can decrease both the intensity and severity of the symptoms of depression, as well as decrease the chance of the illness recurring. Practices such as Mindfulness Meditation can also be helpful in creating balance and managing stress, which can improve symptoms of depressions as well.

While depression is treatable with proper care, the most critical issue is getting an accurate diagnosis so that appropriate treatment can be recommended. Treatment often includes counseling, which can be extremely helpful in not only reducing symptom severity, but in providing skills and tools to improve one’s mood on an ongoing basis.