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Undercover Illnesses: Depression

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - Sometimes it's the invisible medical conditions that are often undermined and misunderstood. This week ABC 7's Jess Doudrick is taking a look at five of these 'undercover illnesses,' exposing what they really are and how those around us are affected.
On day two, the focus is on depression. It's one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S., and if left untreated it can be deadly.
Depression doesn't have one known cause. Doctors say it could be inherited or there may be a chemical imbalance in the brain. It could also be as simple as a trauma or major struggle for someone that triggers depression.
Vincent Combs was constantly bullied by the kids in his neighborhood because his mother was a mixed-race single woman on welfare.
"I've suffered from depression pretty much all of my life," Combs explains.
The depression lead Combs to stutter. Physically he trembled and even started to fall.
"It is not your typical feeling bad one day, 'like I'm sad my dog died,'" Combs explains. "It's not like that because those things that happen, you know eventually you'll get over. This is like a dark cloud that hangs over and just never leaves. Everyday you wake up it's a struggle to find a reason to live."
11-years-ago Combs finally seeked help, and started going to the Mental Health Community Centers.
"You can be very intelligent and still have depression," Combs says. "It's not anything to be ashamed of. Now I see. Then, when I was coming up, it was very hard to admit to other people that you have a problem."
Combs started medications and therapy, but what really gets him through the day is painting.
Combs suffers from what's called major depression, a constant hopelessness and despair that made it hard for him to work, sleep, eat and be social. Nearly 7 percent of Americans suffer from the same thing.
"We all get depressed as well. loss of live or loved one, separation, whatever it might be," Jeffrey Standring, executive director of Mental Health Community Centers explains. "It is when it impedes on the daily living that it becomes... you need to see a psychiatrist or something because part of that treatment is obviously the medication piece." 
At the four Mental Health Community Centers spread throughout the Suncoast, there are 40 to 50 others just like Combs.
A majority of people living with depression are not receiving the potentially life-saving treatment that they need.
If you're struggling with depression it's important that you get help. You can call the Mental Health Community Centers for help at 941-953-3477. If left untreated, depression could lead to strained relationships, drug and alcohol abuse or even suicidal thoughts or attempts.
The series continues on Wednesday, November 8th at 6 p.m. with a focus on anxiety. A woman shares her battle that started in 7th grade when she was bullied. Still, at 29-years-old the anxiety hasn't gone away. She describes the 'roller coaster' it has been over the last 15 years.