PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Depression: What Is It?

Everyone wants to be happy, but many things happen in our lives to make us sad. Our favorite pets can die, we can do poorly at school, close friends can move out of town. When a loved one dies or when we deal with divorce or other serious difficulties in life, we all feel sad for a time, and grieving can help us work through the problem. Sadness is an important way to cope with loss or tragedy.

There's a difference, though, between the "depression" that most of us talk about when we talk about feeling sad, and the kind of depression that's very serious and sometimes life-threatening. We'll call this clinical depression (meaning that it's been identified as a real medical problem) or chronic depression (meaning it goes on for a long time).

Clinical depression is about feeling so sad and hopeless that you sometimes can't imagine being happy. It's about being miserable so much of the time that you don't feel like participating in life. People who are chronically depressed usually have physical problems like stomachaches, headaches, and lack of energy. As you probably know, some people experience such deep depression that they believe suicide is the only way out of their pain.

There are three very important things to know and remember about chronic depression:

  • It's not just something that's "all in your mind" and it isn't something you can just snap out of.
  • It's a real illness that can affect your thoughts, emotions, and physical health.
  • Like other types of illnesses, it can be treated.
There are two different kinds of clinical depression:
  • Major depression, which is the more common "sad" type.
  • Manic depression, when feeling very down goes back and forth with being really up and "juiced."

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