Depression is a serious illness that goes beyond feeling sad occasionally. Learn how to identify it and manage it.

Sad woman sitting on a sofa in the living room

When sadness is endless: managing depression

Occasional sadness, grief or low energy can be normal. But when those symptoms are severe and long-lasting—and affect daily activities like sleeping, eating and socializing—you may be depressed.

Depression is a serious illness that can cause you to withdraw from others, lose interest in activities and feel hopeless. You may even consider suicide. Treatment can help you enjoy life again.

What causes depression?

Depression is a disease. It’s not a personal weakness or a character flaw but rather a serious medical condition.

Research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. For example, you may have a family history of depression, or your brain may have a chemical imbalance. You may have undergone a stressful life event, such as a death in the family or a serious medical illness.

What are the symptoms of depression?

The symptoms of depression go beyond occasional feelings of sadness, grief and low energy. If you’ve experienced some of the following symptoms nearly every day for at least two weeks, please seek help right away.

  • Persistent sad, anxious or hopeless mood
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Decreased energy or increased fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Feeling worthless
  • Everyday tasks feel overwhelming
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts

Some people may experience many signs of depression while others experience only a few. This short quiz can help you assess your symptoms.

There are many types of depressive disorders—including clinical depression, postpartum depression and seasonal depression—and your health care provider can provide a formal diagnosis and treatment plan.

How is depression treated?

Treatment for depression can include:

  • Psychotherapy—commonly called counseling or talk therapy
  • Antidepressant medications to improve how your brain’s chemicals control mood

Your health care provider will identify the best treatment for you.

Be patient. It takes time for the medication and therapy to take effect—sometimes up to four weeks.

Have hope. With BCBSND insurance and programs, you can help manage this disease and lead a happy and healthy life.