Depression strikes about 17 million American adults each year -- which is more than the number of people affected by heart disease, cancer, or AIDS. It is also, perhaps, one of the most misunderstood medical conditions.
Many people think of depression as a character flaw, a need for attention, or a result of bad parenting.
Fact: Depression is a serious illness, just like heart disease.
Unlike the occasional sadness everyone feels due to life's disappointments, depression profoundly weakens a person's ability to function in everyday situations by affecting moods, thoughts, behaviors, and physical well-being.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with depression, you may have a lot of questions or concerns, such as: What exactly is depression? What causes it? And how can it be treated?
In the next few minutes we hope to answer these questions and help you better understand this condition. We'll explain things like the brain and its chemicals, how depression is diagnosed, what the symptoms are, and some of the ways it can be treated.
We hope that this information will give you a better understanding of depression and be helpful as you discuss your health with your healthcare provider.