Published 01/14 2003 01:31PM

Updated 01/14 2003 01:31PM

Depression is a disorder in which a person experiences long periods of sadness and despair, affecting thoughts, feelings, behavior, and physical health and appearance. People of all ages, including infants and children can suffer from depressive illnesses. These illnesses are different from 'the blues', which are normal feelings that eventually pass. People who experience depression may have experienced sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse as children, or the onset may be due to genetic factors. There are a wide variety of biological and psychological components related to the onset of depression. Psychological factors include low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness, and exposure to high levels of stress. Biological factors include chemical imbalance, genetic predisposition to depressive moods, or substance abuse. Depressive illnesses may last for months or years with varying patterns. Many drugs used in the treatment of other illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure or arthritis, as well as oral contraceptives and some antibiotics, can influence depressive illnesses. Sudden or long-term illnesses can also bring on or aggravate a depressive illness. Neurological disorders, hormonal disorders, and tumors can also mimic the symptoms of depressive illnesses. To determine whether a depressive illness is present or not, a medical examination is required. Treatment for depression may include emotional support, medical evaluations, dietary intervention or structure, and therapy on group, individual, outpatient, or inpatient levels. Medications commonly used in treating depression, also known as antidepressants, may include Wellbutrin® (wel-BYEW-trin), Zoloft® (ZOH-loft), or Prozac® (PRO-zak). For more information about depression, contact a healthcare specialist.

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