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What is depression?

What it is: Depression is a medical condition that leads to intense feelings of sadness or despair that do not go away on their own and are not necessarily related to a life event, such as a death of a loved one.

How it's diagnosed: Doctors use a set of guidelines and questions to help determine whether you have depression. They may also run tests to help rule out other conditions or medications that could be causing depression.

How it's treated: Treatment may involve taking medications, going to therapy or counseling, or both. Some types of depression, such as seasonal affective disorder or bipolar disorder, require other treatments. It's likely that you will need ongoing treatment to prevent another episode.

When you're depressed, everyday life may feel difficult. You know that your feelings are not the normal, healthy ones that come from being faced with life's ups and downs. Your despair may feel as if it will go on and on. However, there is hope - depression is treatable - feeling better is within your reach.

Some people find solace just by learning that depression is a medical condition. Learning more about your condition is often a good first step toward feeling better.