man with hand on head

In any given 1-year period, 9.5 percent of
the population, or about 18.8 million American adults, suffer from a depressive
illness5 The economic cost for this disorder is high, but the cost in
human suffering cannot be estimated. Depressive illnesses often interfere with
normal functioning and cause pain and suffering not only to those who have a
disorder, but also to those who care about them. Serious depression can destroy
family life as well as the life of the ill person. But much of this suffering is

Most people with a depressive illness do not seek
treatment, although the great majority—even those whose depression is extremely
severe—can be helped. Thanks to years of fruitful research, there are now
medications and psychosocial therapies such as cognitive/behavioral, “talk” or
interpersonal that ease the pain of depression.

Unfortunately, many people do not recognize that
depression is a treatable illness. If you feel that you or someone you care
about is one of the many undiagnosed depressed people in this country, the
information presented here may help you take the steps that may save your own or
someone else’s life.


A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the
body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way
one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. A depressive
disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal
weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a
depressive illness cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better.
Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate
treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.


Depressive disorders come in different forms, just as is
the case with other illnesses such as heart disease. This pamphlet briefly
describes three of the most common types of depressive disorders. However,
within these types there are variations in the number of symptoms, their
severity, and persistence.