“I can’t write, I can’t read, I can’t talk to people. The worst thing is that I feel it will never end,” she wrote in an online message to her millions of fans this week.
“Regular readers know that I’ve been prone to depression on and off over the years, but this is in a totally different league.”
Ms Keyes, 46, who lives in Dublin with her husband, Tony, is one of Ireland’s most successful authors with worldwide sales of her novels exceeding 22 million. Her 10th novel and 12th book, The Brightest Star in the Sky, was published last October.
Ms Keyes recently admitted in an interview that she wakes up each morning fearful that her gift for writing will be gone.
She wrote on her website she knew she was blessed in having a roof over her head in these tough economic times, but still felt as if she was living in hell because of her illness.
“I know lots of people don’t believe it, but depression is an illness; but unlike say, a broken leg, you don’t know when it will get better,” she wrote.
Fans of Ms Keyes have posted numerous messages of support on her website, with many admitting that they also suffered from depression and that her writing had added a lot of joy to their lives.
Psychologist Dr Maureen Gaffney said it was “absolutely extraordinary” that there was still a stigma attached to depression, given how widespread it was.
Aware, the national support group for people with depression, point out that more than 400,000 people in Ireland suffer from the illness at any one time. Many hide their depression, however, and never get help.
Dr Gaffney, who was speaking on RTÉ, said many people hid their depression because they were fearful they would not be taken seriously and their job or career prospects would be at risk.
“It is really quite extraordinary that we keep people trapped in this sort of ghetto of secrecy,” she said.
She said it was crucial that prominent people like Ms Keyes admitted they suffered from depression, despite all the success they had enjoyed in their careers.
Penguin Ireland publicity director Cliona Lewis said everybody at Penguin wished her well.
Sandra Hogan of Aware said this time can be particularly tough on many people who are prone to depression. She said it was vital for people affected by depression or feeling hopeless to know they did not struggle on their own and realised that with time and support they could get through it.
Aware will hold its annual Depression Awareness Week later this month and will be encouraging people with depression to get the help and support that is available.
* Aware’s lo-call helpline is 1890 303 302 and their website address is www.aware.ie.