Depression is a treatable medical illness involving an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. It’s not a character flaw or a sign of personal weakness. Just like you can’t “wish away” diabetes, heart disease, or any other physical illness, you can’t make depression go away by trying to “snap out of it.”
Episodes of depression often follow stressful events like marital problems or the death of a loved one. People who have recurrent episodes of major depression are sometimes said to have “unipolar depression” (or what used to be called “clinical depression”), because they only experience periods of low, or depressed mood (unlike someone with bipolar disorder who goes through periods of both low and high mood).
While depression sometimes runs in families, many people with the illness have no family history of depression. The exact causes of depression still are not clear. What we do know is that both genetics and a stressful environment, or life situation, contribute to its cause. Usually, it’s not one or the other, but a combination of both.