Symptoms and treatment

It is natural for people to feel sad or down at times. However, some people have intense unhappy feelings that may last for weeks or months. When this happens it is possible that the person has an illness called depression.

Depression is common, affecting about 10% of the American population. People with chronic medical issues such as diabetes and heart disease are more likely to develop depression. Also, women (especially around times of pregnancy and after giving birth) are at higher risk for developing depression.

Depression has distinct symptoms but the way people experience these symptoms and how frequently the symptoms occur will vary from person to person. Some people will have just one short episode with mild symptoms while others will have frequent episodes with more severe symptoms.

Depression is not a personal weakness but a biological illness, similar to diabetes or arthritis. People in need of help for depression should consult with their doctor just as they would for an infection, pain or other illness.

Treatment options

Treatment for depression consists of medication, talking therapy or a combination of these. Results are often successful with over 80% of those getting help for depression obtaining relief.

  • Depression is a disease that affects many people and can seriously disrupt work, relationships and school.
  • Depression is difficult to live with but it can be effectively treated.
  • If you think you or someone you know is suffering from depression, please discuss this with your health care provider. You can also call the Behavioral Health Services Department at 800.547.5186 for confidential assistance with benefit information and/or locating a mental provider in your area.

Please read our Depression brochure.

Depression symptom checklist

If you've had five or more of these symptoms for at least two weeks (*including at least 1 of the 2 that are marked with an asterisk), you may have a major depressive disorder. If you've had even a few of these symptoms, you may have a less serious depressive disorder. Both conditions are treatable and should be discussed with your health care provider.

  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, including sex*
  • Feeling sad, blue, or "down in the dumps"*
  • Feeling slowed down or restless and unable to sit down
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Changes in appetite or weight (loss or gain)
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Problems concentrating, thinking, remembering, or making decisions
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or feeling tired all of the time

Other symptoms indicative of depression may include:

  • Headaches
  • Other aches and pains
  • Sexual problems
  • Digestive problems (upset stomach, etc.)
  • Feeling pessimistic or hopeless
  • Being anxious or worried