Q: What is the distinction between depression and the "blues"?

A: The key differences are how severe your symptoms are and how long they last. It's normal to feel sad for a job loss, illness, death of a loved one, end of a relationship, or money problems. Generally, feeling blue becomes a problem only when the symptoms are severe or don't subside after two weeks or more.

For down days, simple lifestyle and diet changes can help boost your mood naturally:

Limit caffeine intake

Don't overindulge in comfort foods

Avoid alcohol and drugs

Don't isolate yourself

Get more rest, eat well, and exercise. Get outside.

Major depression interferes with sleep, work, and normal activities. About 14.8 million people live with major depression. Anyone, regardless of age or gender, can have depression, though women are more likely to experience it than men.

Also at high risk are people from 45 to 65, without health insurance, who are divorced or have lost a spouse, who are jobless or had depression before.

Common symptoms of major depression include:

Depressed mood, sadness, or feeling tearful, worthless, or empty

Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping

Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive guilt

Lack of concentration

Significant weight gain or weight loss

Uninterested in things you formerly enjoyed

Irritability and restlessness

Excessive guilt

Thoughts of death or suicide

If your symptoms don't go away, meet with your doctor and learn about treatment options.

Fatemeh Mobbaseri is nurse manager of the Senior Behavioral Health Unit at Mercy Suburban Hospital, 610-270-8300.