Most people have felt sad or depressed at times. Feeling depressed can be a normal reaction to loss, life's struggles, or an injured self-esteem. But when feelings of intense sadness -- including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless -- last for days to weeks and keep you from functioning normally, your depression may be something more than sadness. It may very well be clinical depression -- a treatable medical condition.

What you should know:

Symptoms Include:

  • A depressed mood during most of the day, particularly in the morning
  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
  • A sense of restlessness -- known as psychomotor agitation -- or being slowed down -- retardation
  • Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)

What you should do about it:

  • Numerous depression treatments are available.
  • Medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) are very effective for most people
  • In some cases, a primary care doctor can prescribe medications to relieve depression symptoms.
  • However, many people need to see a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions (psychiatrist).
  • Many people with depression also benefit from seeing a psychologist or other mental health counselor.

Usually the most effective treatment for depression is a combination of medication and psychotherapy.