When we’re children, the first emotions we learn to recognize are Happy, Angry, and Sad because they are the most basic of our many emotions. Despite this, sadness can be exceedingly complex and for many, this emotion seeps into every aspect of their lives and consumes them until they begin to feel like all that’s left is an empty shell. This is Depression.

One in 6 people will experience Major Depressive Disorder at least once during his or her lifetime. It’s more than sadness; it’s a medical condition that affects your mind as well as manifests in physical problems. It can be both debilitating and numbing, keeping you from going to work or spending time with family or friends. When you have depression, doing even small or mundane tasks can be a monumental struggle. Some people may be able to put on a happy face but it’s just a mask hiding the sadness underneath.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life: Everyone feels sad sometimes. We all experience ups and downs in life and usually, the downs are temporary. But what if it feels like that roller coaster is always going down? What if around each bend in the track, there’s just another descent? Is this Depression?

Mild Depression is usually associated with some unfortunate event in someone’s life―the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship perhaps. This sadness usually subsides or changes in a way that allows them to carry on.

Major Depressive Disorder is different. This is when the lows:

  • are overwhelming
  • affect you physically
  • keep you from leading a normal life

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I tired all the time?
  • Do I have sleep problems (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Am I often irritable?
  • Have I lost interest in things I used to enjoy?
  • Am I restless?
  • Do I feel hopeless?
  • Do I have problems concentrating on things?
  • Do I have trouble making decisions?
  • Do I overeat or have lost my appetite?
  • Do I have digestive problems that won’t go away?
  • Do I have persistent headaches and other aches and pains?
  • Do I feel sad and empty all the time?
  • Do I have suicidal thoughts?
  • Have I attempted suicide?

If you’ve said yes to any of these, you may have Major Depressive Disorder.
Your doctor may ask you many of these questions along with how long you’ve been having these feelings. You’ll also be asked about your family’s history with Depression and other mental illnesses and if you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse.

Depression has four risk factors:

  • Genetics (Does it run in your family?),
  • Environmental (Were you abused or live in severe poverty?),
  • Personality (Do you have low self-esteem or are pessimistic?),
  • or Biochemistry (Do you have a chemical imbalance in your brain?)

Knowing your current medical history, your symptoms, and family history, your doctor can come up with a course of action to bring relief to your symptoms of your Depression. You may also be referred to a mental health professional.

Treatment for Depression usually starts with antidepressants and psychotherapy but if these are unsuccessful, treatments such as TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) which is the use of electromagnets to stimulate the area of the brain that regulate moods, or ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) which is a more invasive shock therapy that is usually used if nothing else works.

Your doctor will work closely with you to find a treatment that will help you get back on that roller coaster headed back uphill.