Most people feel sad, lonely, or depressed at times. Feeling depressed is a normal reaction to losing a loved one, the struggles of life, or a blow to the ego. But when these feelings become overwhelming, involve physical symptoms, and last for long periods of time, they can keep a person from leading a normal, active life.
Primary care doctors can screen for depression and help manage symptoms. If left untreated, symptoms of clinical or major depression can get worse and last for months or even years. They can cause untold suffering and possibly lead to suicide.
Recognizing the symptoms of depression can be difficult; about half of people who experience symptoms never get diagnosed or treated for their illness. Symptoms may include difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions; fatigue and decreased energy; feeling guilty, worthless, and/or helpless; feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism; insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping; irritability or restlessness; loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex; overeating or loss of appetite; persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even when treated; persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings; and thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.