Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
More than just “a bout of the blues,” depression isn’t something that you can “snap out" of. It’s a medical illness that affects how you feel, think, and behave, and it can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.
WHAT’S THE CAUSE?
It’s not known exactly what causes depression. As with many mental disorders, a variety of factors may be involved, such as:
- Biological differences. People with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
- Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression. Depressive symptoms may occur when these chemicals are out of balance.
- Hormones. Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression. Hormone changes can result from thyroid problems, menopause or a number of other conditions.
- Inherited traits. Depression is more common in people whose biological (blood) relatives have the condition. Researchers are looking for genes that may be involved in causing depression.
- Life events. Traumatic events such as the death or loss of a loved one, financial problems, high stress, or childhood trauma can trigger depression in some people.
For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it’s obvious something isn’t right. Other people feel miserable or unhappy without knowing why.
Signs and symptoms of depression may include:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy
- Changes in appetite causing weight loss or weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your responsibility
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, remembering and making decisions
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
- Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor may suggest one or more therapies. Medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) are very effective for most people.
There are many types of antidepressant medications. You may need to try several medications before you find one that works.
It involves treating depression by talking about your condition and related issues with a mental health provider. Psychotherapy can help you identify issues that may be contributing to your depression, adjust to a crisis or difficulty, replace negative thoughts with positive ones, find better ways to problem-solve, improve relationships, set realistic goals for yourself, and find healthy ways to deal with stress.
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Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.