An individual with major depressive disorder, or major depression, has symptoms of a depressive episode – feeling sad, sleeping too little or too much and feeling very tired, changes in appetite, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and physical activity changes – all day, every day, for at least two weeks with functional impairment.


To be diagnosed with depression, a person must have experienced a major depressive episode that has lasted longer than two weeks. Diagnosing depression can be complicated because a depressive episode can be part of bipolar disorder, or another mental illness. How a person describes symptoms often depends on the cultural and spiritual lenses he or she is looking through. Research has shown that African Americans (including Africans in the US) and Latinos are more likely to be misdiagnosed, so people who have been diagnosed with depression should look for a health care professional who understands their background, and shares their expectations for treatment.

To diagnose bipolar disorder, a doctor may perform a physical examination, conduct an interview and order lab tests. While bipolar disorder cannot be identified through a blood test or body scan, these tests can help rule out other illnesses that can resemble the disorder, such as hyperthyroidism. If no other illnesses (or other medicines such as steroids) are causing the symptoms, the doctor may recommend the person to see a psychiatrist.


People with depression have successful results when they implement a full array of evidence-based strategies, including medication, psychotherapy, exercise, and sleep regulation. Other treatments like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and deep brain stimulation (DBS) can also be very helpful. Early treatment is more effective and decreases the likelihood of recurrences

Related Conditions

A person with depression may have additional conditions: Anxiety disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) Substance abuse These other illnesses can make it hard to treat depression, but successfully treating depression almost always improves these related illnesses. Successful treatment of PTSD, ADHD or substance abuse usually improves the symptoms of depression.

Though depression cannot be cured, it can be managed and treated effectively.