Tips for helping loved ones cope with depression
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Clinical depression is a serious medical illness. It's not something you have made up in your head. It's more than just feeling "down" or "blue" for a few days.

Depression can include feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness and even thoughts of suicide. These feelings can go on for weeks or months. Depression can change your mood and your thoughts, leaving you feeling stuck in a rut. It can even affect how often you become ill, or how well you heal from a major illness.

There is no single cause for depression. It likely results from a combination of sources. Depression can run in the family or  by life events (such as a death, changing jobs, giving birth, moving or an illness).

Types of depression

There are three common types of depression.

Dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder is mild to moderate depression with symptoms that last two years or longer. You may lack enthusiasm for life but your daily activities may not be greatly affected. You are probably not functioning "like yourself." You may feel "down" more days than you feel OK.
Major depression has a powerful affect on your moods, thoughts, feelings and daily activities for two weeks or longer. It is possible to have more than one bout of major depression during your life.

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression. It is an illness that causes extreme changes in mood that swing between depression (low) and elation or mania (high).

How severe and intense the mood swings are will vary. Some people alternate quickly (manic for at least one week at a time or depressed for two weeks at a time). Others will be in a manic or depressive phase for long periods of time (even up to one year).

People who have bipolar disorder may have periods of normal level mood even though the illness is still present. 


I had a black dog. His name was depression.

In collaboration with the World Health Organization, writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone tells the story of overcoming the "black dog of depression."

Depression facts

Depression isn't your fault; you are not alone. There is hope. You can feel better.

You may feel uncomfortable talking about how you feel. But it is important to share your concerns with your health care provider.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Depression Workbook, mh-ahc-94394
First Published: 01/01/2011
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2011