Often misunderstood, depression is not just a bout of the blues, nor is it a weakness or something that you can simply “snap out” of. Depression is a chronic illness like diabetes or high blood pressure. A chronic illness is one that lasts for a very long time and usually cannot be cured completely. Examples of chronic illnesses include diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. Many of these conditions can be improved through diet, exercise, and healthy living, in addition to medication.

Depression is a medical illness that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Most people experiencing depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or other treatment. It is estimated that up to one-third of individuals with a serious medical condition experience symptoms of depression.

Patients and their family members and friends often overlook the symptoms of depression, assuming that feeling depressed is normal for someone struggling with a serious, chronic illness. Symptoms of depression such as fatigue, poor appetite, impaired concentration, and insomnia are also common features of chronic medical conditions, making it difficult to know whether it’s the underlying illness or depression. When depression is present, it is extremely important to treat both the depression and the chronic medical illness at the same time.

Recovering from depression requires action, but taking action when you’re depressed is hard. In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like going for a walk or spending time with friends, can be exhausting.

It’s the Catch-22 of depression recovery: The things that help the most are the things that are the most difficult to do. There’s a difference, however, between something that’s difficult and something that’s impossible.

Getting Help

Getting the support a person needs plays a big role in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. On their own, it can be difficult to maintain perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression, but the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. However, isolation and loneliness make depression even worse, so maintaining close relationships and social activities are important.

The thought of reaching out to even close family members and friends can seem overwhelming. A person may feel ashamed, too exhausted to talk, or unable to call or articulate what they’re experiencing yet desperately want help at the same time. This is particularly true for young people.

We’re currently developing an app for teenagers who experience depression. ‘CodeBlue’ provides teens with a location-aware app that with one click sends an alert to their support crew who can then respond via text, phone call or show up.