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What is depression?

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Depression is often used in everyday language to mean straightforward and understandable unhappiness. This use of the term is best avoided. Instead, the word should be reserved for those who have significant and pervasive lowering of mood leading to difficulties in leading a normal life. Such conditions can vary from a lifelong predisposition to low mood (known as dysthymia) to depressive episodes that vary in intensity from relatively mild to severe. Depression is likely to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, disease burdens of the 21st century. It is a very common condition that causes a great deal of suffering and a substantial number of deaths. Depression leads to disharmony at home, difficulties at work and internal distress. Unfortunately, the condition still attracts much stigma, is not always recognized and, when recognized, is not always adequately treated. Depression is more common in women than in men, though its most dramatic outcome, death by suicide, is more common in men.

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