What is depression?

It is estimated that 19 million Americans suffer from depression every year. Depression is not a weakness or a character flaw-it is an actual medical illness leading to intense feelings of sadness or despair. The reasons for depression are not always clear. It may be spawned by an event like including traumatic life experiences such as the death of a loved one, certain diseases or taking medications, substance abuse or hormonal changes. Or, it may happen for no apparent reason at all. Sometimes, people are genetically predisposed to depression due to a family history of the genes not providing the brain with enough serotonin. The symptoms of depression may differ from person to person. Some symptoms may include a persistent sad mood, lack of pleasure in activities, change in sleep or eating habits, or a feeling of worthlessness.
Whatever the circumstances, depression is caused by an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. Normally, these "chemical messengers" help nerve cells communicate with one another by sending and receiving messages, and they may also influence a person's mood. In the case of depression, the available supply of the chemical messengers is low, so nerve cells can't communicate effectively. This often results in symptoms of depression.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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