Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. But because it's a mental illness and it's often invisible, it can be very difficult for others to understand what it actually is.
It can also be a challenge for people with depression to reach out for help.
As the above video from TED-Ed explains: "One major source of confusion is the difference between having depression and just feeling depressed."
Almost everyone has an off day where they feel particularly down in the dumps. But then circumstances change and those bad feelings disappear.
For people with clinical depression, this sadness won't go away even when they want it to. It can linger for at least two consecutive weeks and will significantly interfere with a person's ability to work...
There are many symptoms of depression, these include: a low mood, loss of interest in things you'd normally enjoy, changes in appetite, feeling worthless or excessively guilty, sleeping too much or too little, poor concentration, restlessness or slowness, loss of energy or recurrent thoughts of suicide.
Neuroscientists still don't have a complete picture of what causes depression. However they do believe it is linked to a complex interaction between genes and environment.
There are effective treatments. For example, medication and therapy compliment each other to boost brain chemicals.
In extreme cases electro convulsive therapy, which acts like a controlled seizure in the patient's brain, can also be helpful.
According to the US-based National Institute of Mental Health, it takes the average person who is suffering from a mental illness over 10 years to ask for help - which is a very saddening reality.
For those who think they might know someone with depression, TED-Ed has offered a few pointers on how to help them:
- Encourage them (gently) to seek out treatment.
- Help with tasks such as searching for local therapists or making a list of questions to ask a doctor - because to someone with depression, these first steps can seem insurmountable.
- If they feel guilty or ashamed it's important to point out that depression is a medical condition just like asthma or diabetes. It's not a weakness or a personality trait and they can't expect themselves to "just get over it" any more than they could will themselves to get over a broken arm.
- If you haven't experienced depression yourself, avoid comparing it to times you've felt down. Comparing what they are experiencing to normal, temporary feelings of sadness could make them feel guilty for struggling.
- Just talking about depression openly can be a great thing, as these conversations help to erode stigma and make it easier for people to ask for help.