More than 19 million U.S. adults—nearly 8% of the population—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

Get a Quick Glimpse

What Is It?

A common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act, often leading to emotional and physical problems at school, work, and home.

The Science Behind It

The parts of the brain affected by depression include: amygdala, hippocampus, and the dorsomedial thalamus.

Risk factors of depression include:

  • Biochemistry. Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
  • Genetics. Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 percent chance of having the illness at some point in their life.
  • Personality. People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
  • Environmental factors. Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.

Warning Signs

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Common Misconceptions

Depression is all in your head

The general public only sees the emotional side of depression like acting out or not acting like yourself. If we took time to realize that depression is a condition that causes physical issues as well, maybe we would see that depression is a real disease that takes time and treatment to manage.

Depression is only caused by a traumatic event

Those who deal with depression are more likely to experience those feelings for long periods of time and more frequently. A traumatic event does not cause depression; it only heightens an already existing issue in someone who deals with depression.

Medication is the only way to manage depression

Medicine, therapy, and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) are all helpful for depression


Although depressive disorder can be a devastating illness, it often responds to treatment. The key is to get a specific evaluation and treatment plan. Safety planning is important for individuals who have suicidal thoughts. After an assessment rules out medical and other possible causes, a patient-centered treatment plans can include any or a combination of the following:

  • Psychotherapy including cognitive behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy and interpersonal therapy.
  • Medications including antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications.
  • Exercise can help with prevention and mild-to-moderate symptoms.
  • Brain stimulation therapies can be tried if psychotherapy and/or medication are not effective. These include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) (a medically induced seizure that has therapeutic effects)  for depressive disorder with psychosis or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) (magnetic pulses sent through the brain to stimulate regions associated with mood and behavior)  for severe depression.
  • Light therapy, which uses a light box to expose a person to full spectrum light in an effort to regulate the hormone melatonin (hormone associated with sleep-wake cycle) .
  • Alternative approaches including acupuncture, meditation, faith and nutrition can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

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Medical Disclaimer: Brain Health Bootcamp aims to promote education and awareness of mental health conditions among adolescents, families, and educators. We publish material that is researched, cited, and drawn from sources reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.