The first thing doctors want you to know when it comes to depression, is the difference between depression and sadness. Normal everyday events can bring about sadness, but clinical depression is a biological sickness.
Gerry Konigsberg works for the University of Texas Harris County Psychiatric Center (UTHCPC).
"For example, in this current economy, you have people losing their jobs, some homes are being foreclosed on. So the question that would be asked of that person: 'Are you having trouble getting out of bed? Have you changed any of your habits? Are you thinking about committing suicide?' "
At the UTHCPC people can fill out a questionnaire that helps doctors diagnose what’s really going on. The person must say yes or no to statements like these:
"Most days I feel nervous. Most days I worry about a lot of things. I feel restless. I get tired easily."
Doctor Vineeth John is a psychiatrist at the center. He says a lot of people don’t understand that clinical depression has nothing to do with your circumstances, which makes them confused as to why they’re feeling bad when things may be going so well.
"People have this impression that if I’m doing so well and I’m beginning to feel this way, I can also get out easily, using a little bit more will power and changing the way I think and they way I perceive life. But in general what they may have to understand is that this is a biological illness, like they may have a physical illness."
Although clinical depression is considered a mental illness, Dr. John says in many cases it’s a symptom of another mental illness. The mental condition makes the person depressed and he or she is unaware of the problem until they seek help.
"For example, in a situation like bipolar illness, a lot of the times patients present with depressive complaints, but when you screen them properly, you realize in the past year they may have periods when they are too happy, too energetic. They’ve done risky things, but those things are easily forgotten by the patient."
Dr. John says depression is also bad for your health. It can lead to a host of physical ailments and sometimes can be a precursor to dementia. He says the good news is depression is the most treatable of all mental illnesses.