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Depression is a serious mental illness that is described as persistent sadness and sometimes irritability. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls it “one of the leading causes of disease or injury worldwide for both men and women.” The symptoms of depression are different for everyone. But the general symptoms include feeling hopeless, crying a lot, not being able to concentrate, as well as changes in appetite or weight, loss of interest in activities or changes in sleep quality. Depression can, literally, make it hard to get out of bed and complete duties that were once routine.

Depression is a complex disease. There is no single cause for it. The causes can be a chemical imbalance in the brain, stressful life events, a medication side effect, illness or family history. It is not just feeling “blue.” It is a medical condition that can be treated, like high blood pressure or diabetes. With treatment, many people can function very well.

Charles F. Reynolds III, MD

Charles F. Reynolds III, MD

The CDC reports that older adults have a higher risk of being depressed but that it is not a normal part of aging. Depression in older adults usually goes along with other medical problems, according to Charles F. Reynolds III, MD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and director of the Aging Institute at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh. He also notes that older adults have periods of vulnerability that are more common in their age group. These periods can be grief, major transitions in life (like retirement) and changes in/loss of health.

Adults are not the only ones who have depression. Young people can also suffer from it. Depression can be tricky to diagnose in young people, especially in adolescence. Adolescence is a time of change. It can be difficult to know if a young person is just changing or developing symptoms of depression. Young people can be irritable, but is that normal adolescence or a sign of depression?

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