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What makes depression different from the blues?

Depression is not equivalent to the ordinary experience of feeling down that commonly occurs in daily life. Depression is an illness that affects mood, body, behavior and mind. The condition may be of such severity that the affected person may not be able to function normally and optimally. Depression can negatively impact important roles that the person fulfills, such as spouse, parent and worker.

When the grief process is particularly protracted and has not resolved within a reasonable amount of time, the lack of resolution may be a sign that a clinical depression has developed. The feelings of sadness experienced during the grieving process may seem identical to the feelings of sadness inherent to clinical depression. Generally, any time feelings of sadness persist for two weeks or more and interfere with a person's daily activities, some form of treatment is indicated. While 10 percent of Americans experience it, depression is not normal.

Most people get depressed or "down" every once in a while, but major depression is different: it's felt most of the day, for nearly every day of the week for at least two weeks and it interferes with your daily life. Severity, duration and the presence of other symptoms distinguish depression from ordinary sadness. Depression—with feelings that range from discouragement to hopelessness—is a serious mood disorder that can cause severe symptoms, and not just seasonally. It affects approximately 19 million Americans every year.

Normal grief is not considered a psychological disorder, however, depression is a disorder that requires treatment. Professional help is available for depression and should be sought if the bereaved is preoccupied with death, experiences thoughts of suicide, has severe feelings of guilt, experiences a decreased enjoyment in activities, is unable to function or has persistent feelings of worthlessness.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.