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HomeHealth A-Z Depression
Depression is a medical condition with many symptoms, including feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, sadness, and a loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.



Definition of Depression

Depression is a mental state characterized by feelings of sadness and despair, a sense of inadequacy, and a despondent lack of activity.

Description of Depression

We all feel sad or down in the dumps sometimes. That is just a normal part of life. However, individuals who begin to feel this way on a daily basis may be suffering from depression. Many individuals suffer from depression so it is important to learn more about it. The following information will outline what depression is, the causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Depression is a medical condition that is distinguished by feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, and sadness. Those afflicted generally lose interest in the things they previously enjoyed. An individual's well being decreases emotionally and psychologically.

There are three types of depression that are common. These include major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors of Depression

Individuals with bipolar depression are generally affected due to several factors. These generally include environmental, genetic and psychological factors. Many families with a history of depression will continue the trend in subsequent generations. Depression is also caused when there is not enough or too much of a certain neurochemical in the brain.

Individuals with a lot of stress, who are pessimistic, and have low self esteem, may end up with depression. Pregnancy, loss of a loved one, difficult relationships, chronic illness, financial problems, drug abuse, life problems, and even some medications may play a significant role in depression. Medicine actually causes depression in 10 to 15 percent of the cases.

Symptoms of Depression

There are many depression symptoms and it is important to know what to look for. The most common symptoms include feeling sad, losing interest in activities, feeling guilty, feeling restless, thoughts of death, weight loss or gain, trouble sleeping or oversleeping, headaches, digestive problems, difficulty concentrating or thinking, anxiousness, being worried, and more.

Diagnosis of Depression

Depression is diagnosed only after a medical doctor has evaluated the patient both physically and psychologically. Depression is diagnosed based on symptoms of the individual no longer enjoying normal activities while feeling sad or down for two weeks or more in addition to other symptoms of depression. Doctors will ask patients to list their symptoms, when they began, their severity, treatment if the symptoms were experienced before, and how long the symptoms lasted. There are some other diseases that could cause depression, like cancer, thyroid disease and other neurological diseases.

Treatment of Depression

There are many treatment options when it comes to depression. These include psychotherapy and medication and most frequently a combination of the two. Light therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, and alternative treatments may also be used to treat individuals with depression.

More than 20 antidepressant drugs are on the market and they are used to correct any chemical imbalance that may be present in the brain. Each drug for depression focuses on a different neurotransmitter so some individuals may need to try various antidepressants before finding the best one for their depression. In some cases a combination of drugs works best. Many times your doctor will prescribe one drug and change it after several weeks if no change has been noted. It takes a while to find the right drug sometimes, but once it is found it usually offers relief to depression sufferers. Of the antidepressant drugs on the market there are four types. These include tricylic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, lithium carbonates, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Individuals who take medication for their depression will likely see improvement after six weeks, although sometimes it will take 12 weeks for the full effect of the drugs to kick in. Drugs work differently on everyone and some will have fast results while others will not.

Psychotherapy works well for depression and it focuses on the individual talking to a counselor, therapist, or doctor in order to help relieve the depression. Of the psychotherapies out there the three that work best for treating depression include interpersonal therapy, cognitive therapy, and behavioral therapy. Sometimes this treatment works immediately; other times it takes a couple of months to show effects. Each patient is different and should not have any specific expectations concerning their results.

Electroconvulsive therapy is a shock treatment that is used on individuals who do not respond to typical treatment or who are severely depressed. The shocking changes chemicals in the brain, which helps relieve the depression. This does not work for all individuals, but sometimes the change in brain chemicals is enough to positively impact the depression.

Light therapy uses a special broad spectrum light to expose individuals to more light on a daily basis. Many individuals have SAD, seasonal affective disorder, which causes their depression during the fall and winter. This type of depression is serious and it occurs at the same time every year. Utilizing light therapy is often times enough to overpower the loss of sunlight during the winter months and help treat an individual's depression.

Prevention of Depression

Preventing depression from ever happening may be difficult, although not impossible. However, after the initial bout of depression it is much easier to prevent subsequent relapses or symptoms that worsen. The way to do this is to always take prescribed medication, take medication for the prescribed period of time, eat a well balanced diet, get plenty of exercise, take part in cognitive behavioral therapy, sleep regularly, avoid using alcohol or drugs, seek drug detox treatment and counseling for drug or alcohol addiction, and always seek professional treatment if you notice depression symptoms returning.

Preventing all recurrences may not be possible, however if you follow the steps outlined above you will do a great job at reducing your risk.

External Resources

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

National Alliance on Mental Illness

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