Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders


Up to one in four women will experience an episode of major depression in her lifetime.  Rates of depression are twice as high in women as compared to men. Mental disorders rank among the top ten illnesses causing disability—more than 37 percent worldwide— with depression being the leading cause of disability among people aged 15 and older. Depression is often chronic and severe, and nearly 40 percent of patients have their first episode before age 18.

Clinical depression is a brain disorder characterized by disruption of the coordination of central nervous system circuits for control of mood, thought, sleep, appetite and behavior. It results from multiple genes acting together with environmental factors, such as stressful life events. The symptoms of depression reflect disrupted physiology with sleep, appetite, activity levels and thought processes. The diagnosis of major depression requires at least five of the following symptoms, for two weeks, most of the day, nearly every day, and one must be mood or interest:

Depression is often treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination. In certain cases other therapies such as bright light therapy may be appropriate.

Patient Care

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