In light of the recent tragic loss of actor and comedian Robin Williams, let us take a moment to discuss depression. According to the National Institute of Health, depression is a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way. Untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide in the United States, and suicide claims 34,000 lives in this country every year (NIH, 2007). The important thing to understand is that depression does not always present as persistent sadness; in fact perhaps a better way to describe depression is a void of emotions, or a feeling of emptiness. Depression does not discriminate; it does not care if you are male or female, young or old, rich or poor, famous or not; it is a chemical imbalance in the brain that requires treatment to control. Unfortunately, much like addiction and other mental illnesses, depression often goes undetected and untreated. Depression is a complex disease that presents to different people in a variety of different forms, but here is a list of some of the most common signs and symptoms of depression to be aware of:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or empty feelings/ mood
  • Feeling of helplessness/ hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Changes in appetite/ or weight
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

For some people the signs and symptoms are obvious, but for a vast majority of others they may just feel empty or sad and not know why. It is important to talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about any thoughts or feelings that you are experiencing. There is a common myth that depression, addiction or other mental illnesses are signs of weakness; this is simply not true. Much like other diseases, depression has a physical cause; a chemical imbalance, that cannot be simply “worked out on its own,” as some might suggest.  The good news is that early detection and treatment can help. So be sure to talk to your doctor or healthcare professional toady and get started on a path to a better you!