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S asha had just moved to a new town with her family. Sasha's mom loved her job, and her sisters, Charlotte and Sophie, made new friends, but Sasha felt lonely. No one understood her. The kids at school seemed mean and false. They teased her for dressing like a “freak,” laughed at her when she spoke, and deliberately gave her the wrong directions. She felt misunderstood. Sasha didn't want to ruin her family's happiness by complaining so she suffered in silence. Soon, she stayed home from school a lot, insisting she had a stomachache. Her brain felt numb. Sasha's days in a fog were disrupted only by the occa sional flood of inexplicable tears.

We all get the blues sometimes. But when those feelings hang on for weeks or months, it's probably more than just a bad mood. It may be an illness called depression.

Depression describes a person's condition when he or she feels sad, discouraged, and hopeless. Often, a depressed person has trouble functioning. He or she might feel exhausted all the time and have difficulty thinking clearly or quickly.

Recent studies have shown that more than 20 percent of adolescents in the general population have emotional problems and one-third of adolescents attending psychiatric clinics suffer from depression. Depression affects 20 percent of all women, 10 percent of all men, and 5 percent of all adolescents worldwide. It is the most common psychological problem in the United States, afflicting nearly 18 million people each year. “Depression is a disorder most commonly associated with adolescent suicide,” says Dr. W.Michael Nelson, chairman of the department of psychiatry at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

But most depressed teens never get the professional help they need. Some people believe that only “crazy” people seek the help of a mental health expert. But if you're depressed, or if you know someone who is, serious depression isn't something that you can simply “get over” or “break out of.” There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help.

If you can't seem to shake the blues—or if youknow someone who can't—you do not have to feel lost or hopeless. Depression can be treated and, in most cases, cured. This book will help you learn about depression, its causes, and what to do (and who to call) to help yourself or a depressed friend.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaDepression