Each year about 18.8 million American adults experience a depressive illness that impacts their body, mood and thoughts. Depression is normally accompanied by a prevailing sense of sadness and/or loss of interest or pleasure in most activities and often interferes with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat and enjoy once pleasurable activities. People experiencing a depressive illness cannot just “pull themselves together” or “snap out of it” and get better. That’s because depression is a medical condition, and like other medical conditions – whether diabetes, heart disease or cancer – it requires treatment. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years.

Older adults sometimes believe symptoms are a normal part of aging, but they are not. While no one is 100 percent sure what causes depression, most experts agree its probably a combination of factors, including:

  • Genetics (depression often runs in families)
  • An imbalance of certain brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) which help brain cells communicate with each other
  • A disorder of the part of the brain that regulates mood, sleep, appetite, behavior and thinking
  • Major life events, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, financial problems or the birth of a child
  • The build-up over time of many smaller, negative life events

Depression is treatable and help is available. There are many different treatment options. For more information about symptoms, treatment options and local resources visit

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