• Fact Sheet: Depression

    Depression is a serious but treatable medical illness that affects how you feel, think and act. Each year it affects more than 17 million Americans, and the majority of people who receive treatment for depression experience significant improvement with treatment. It is the third leading cause of death of 15-35 year olds.

    Unfortunately, many people do not recognize themselves as being depressed, or they may fear the reactions of family, friends and co-workers if they seek treatment. Because of this, they experience problems at home, work and school and continue to suffer unnecessarily.

    Symptoms of depression may include:


    • Persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety
    • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
    • Changes in appetite that result in weight loss or gain not related to dieting
    • Insomnia or oversleeping
    • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
    • Restlessness or irritability
    • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
    • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
    • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts

    Treatment for depression may involve medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both—and most people respond well to treatment. Anti-depressant medication is not habit-forming, does not have a stimulating effect on people who are experiencing depression, and generally takes full effect within three to six weeks. If psychotherapy is the treatment of choice, it may involve only the individual patient or include others with similar problems in a group environment.

    There are clear links between depression and suicide. Important risk factors for suicide include the presence of mental illness—especially depression, conduct disorders, alcohol and drug use, a previous suicide attempt, the suicide of a family member, and the availability of firearms. More men than women commit suicide.

    Although most suicidal persons give warning signs of their suicidal intentions, others are often unaware of the significance of these warnings, or they are unsure what to do about them.

    Risk factors for suicide include:


    • A sense of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness
    • A preoccupation with themes of death or expressing suicidal thoughts
    • Planning for suicide
    • A previous suicide attempt
    • Forms of self-injurious behavior
    • A recent interpersonal loss, real or imagined
    • A sense of rejection by or the loss of family
    • A sense of rejection in a social or interpersonal sense
    • The experience of academic failure
    • Social ineptness or the experience of being at a social disadvantage
    • Successful suicide by a role model, particularly a family member
    • Multiple episodes of depression or a history of emotional illness
    • The incidence of depression, emotional illness and/or suicide in the family
    • Alcohol or substance abuse in addition to being depressed
    • Confusion in regard to sexual identity
    • Lack of interest in activities that were previously pleasurable
    • Heightened anxiety
    • Severe insomnia or hypersomnia
    • Panic attacks
    • Delusions or hallucinations

    Additional information about depression may be found on our Web-based Resources page.