Depression means different things to different people. Depression can be a symptom, (as when a person says, "I feel depressed"), a sign (when someone observes, "he looks depressed"), or a diagnosable disorder. It is important to separate depressive disorders from everyday "blues" or sadness, which are not depression. Depression is one of the most common medical problems in the United States and around the world. At some point in their life, about one in four Americans will experience at least one episode of depression.
Depression affects an estimated 18 million Americans each year, more people than cancer and almost as many people as heart disease. Depression can strike anyone, regardless of age, race, nationality, occupation, income level or sex. Women, though, have significantly higher rates of depression than men do. A person's first episode of depression typically occurs in the prime of life, between the ages of 25 and 44. However, the illness also affects children, teenagers, and older adults. Approximately 15 percent of older Americans - about 6 million men and women age 65 and older -experience depression. Depression may occur in as many as 1 in 33 children, and 1 in 8 teenagers. At any given time, 3 % of children and teens are depressed. Suicide is the third leading death for 15 to 24 year olds and the sixth leading cause of death for 5 to 15 year olds.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), published by, American Psychiatric Association (APA), to be diagnosed as suffering from a "major depressive episode" you must have five of the following nine symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day for more than 2 weeks:.
• Feelings of sadness, depressed mood, and/or irritability.
• Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, such as hobbies or spending time with family/friends.
• Changes in weight or appetite.