What is Depression?

  • 4 Depression is a physical, emotional and a social experience. Although sometimes the source is not immediately obvious, depressive symptoms are often a normal reaction to challenging situations in our lives. These can include changes and losses, such as a death, a divorce or separation, a new medical diagnosis, or even the loss of a job, a change in career, or the birth of a child.

  • 4 Depression is not just "in your mind." As much as 85% of physician visits are for problems that have a significant psychological and/or behavioral component, such as chronic illnesses. For example, research has shown a connection between depression and osteoporosis and even cancer (Stress Found to Weaken Resistance to Illness Washington Post, Dec. 22, 2003).

  • 4  Depression is common. Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given year. (Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun; 62(6): 617-27).

  • 4 Depression is not the same as sadness. While people with depression often also experience deep, and sometimes seemingly unending sadness, experiences such as numbness or emptiness, physical pain, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, and unexplained weight loss/gain may also be part of the picture. People suffering from depression sometimes find it difficult to engage in activities they previously enjoyed, or feel distant or unmotivated from significant others in their lives. 

  • 4 Depression can come about as a reaction to a life circumstance, but for some it appears to come out of the blue. Patients may say that they shouldn't be feeling this way since everything is really alright.


What is depression like?

  • 4 There are as many different ways of having depression as there are people who are experiencing it, however, some things patients describe are:

  • 4 Feeling as though activities you once enjoyed are no longer appealing. In fact, every day activities can feel draining. Trying to do even simple things can feel like slogging through deep mud. While it doesn't feel as though there is any energy left, patients often keep trying, and then feel frustrated when they do.
  • 4 Its frustrating to hear friends, family and partners try to say "just think positively." If depression could just be "thought away," it would. Positive words often just make people feel worse. Just being there in a supportive way is often more helpful.
  • 4 Depression can affect your emotions - some experience guilt, shame, anger and frustration, sadness and anxiety. It can also affect your body. For some, it comes along with aches and pains, insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too little or too much), weight gain/loss, stomach cramps, or difficulty concentrating.

Depression and your health               

  • 4 Thoughts, attitudes, and emotions can accelerate the onset of heart disease, as well as get in the way of taking positive steps to improve one’s health. (American Psychological Association, 2004)

  • 4 Individuals with diabetes are twice as likely as individuals without diabetes to have serious psychological distress (McVeight, et al, 2003).

  • 4 Depression is prevalent in approximately 20% of cancer patients and may impede treatment and recovery. Children and caregivers of cancer patients may also suffer with depression (NIH, 2009).

  • 4 A study of patients with heart disease found that psychological interventions can reduce the risk of further cardiac events by 75% compared to those given only medical care and medication (Sobel, 2000).

Attitudes towards depression


  • 4 Eighty-eight percent (88%) of the public, in a national survey, believe that mental health services should be available to everyone and that their health care system should treat the entire person including one’s mental well-being. (W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 1999).

  • 4 Ninety percent (90%) of those surveyed believe that good psychological health plays a role in maintaining good physical health (Penn & Schoen poll, May 1995).

  • 4 The provision of psychological services to high frequency Medicaid users resulted in a 36% reduction in their Medicaid utilization after one year (Pallak, et al., 1995).


As cited by the American Psychological Association