Clinical depression affects roughly one in four people at some point in their lives. It is a severe and prolonged state of mind in which normal sadness grows into a painful state of hopelessness, listlessness, lack of motivation, and fatigue. But, however well defined, clinical depression is many things to many people, varying from mild to severe.
Mild depression can result in brooding on negative aspects of self or others, feeling resentful, irritable or angry much of the time, feeling sorry for oneself, and needing constant reassurance from someone. It can also result in various physical complaints that do not seem to be caused by any physical illness.
As depression worsens, feelings of extreme sadness and hopelessness combine with low self-esteem, guilt, memory loss, and concentration difficulties to bring about a severely painful state of mind. To make things worse, there may be a change in basic bodily functions. The usual daily rhythms seem to go wrong: can’t sleep, or sleep too much, can’t eat, or eat too much. Enthusiasm for what are usually enjoyable activities fades. Sometimes, there is even a feeling that life is not worth living and that one would be better off dead.
The most commonly used treatment for major depression is antidepressant medication. It is relatively cheap, and it is easy for family practitioners, who treat the majority of depressed people, to prescribe. However, when the episode has passed, and medication ceases, depression tends to return, and at least 50% of those who experienced an initial episode of depression find that depression comes back, despite appearing to have made a full recovery.