Depression

What is depression?

Depression is a serious condition that is different from ordinary feelings of sadness. While it is normal for people to feel down or unhappy from time to time, clinical depression is a persistent state of unhappiness, and can seriously disrupt how a person feels, thinks, or behaves. Many people who suffer from depression have difficulty functioning on a day-to-day basis; they can feel overwhelmed or consumed by their thoughts,  and often don’t find pleasure in activities or hobbies they used to enjoy.

There are varying degrees of depression that can be diagnosed by a doctor. Major depression is the most commonly diagnosed form of depression, and is characterized by experiencing a combination of symptoms that is severe enough to interfere with normal daily functioning. Some other types of depression include seasonal affective disorder, bipolar depression (more about bipolar disorder here), and postpartum depression.

Depression is one of the most diagnosed mental health disorders. It is estimated that about 19 million people in the U.S. suffer from depression in a given year. People with depression cannot simply “get over” their feelings-- ongoing treatment is often necessary for recovery. Fortunately, depression is highly treatable through a variety of methods. The best source of effective and comprehensive  treatment options is through consulting with trained health care professionals.

What are signs/symptoms of depression?

[source: NIMH]

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.

What are the risk factors for depression?

Depression is an illness that can affect anyone, but there are certain risk factors that can contribute to its development or onset:

  • Family history of depression
  • Having friends with depression
  • Previous episode(s) of depression
  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • Excessive drug or alcohol use
  • Having a serious illness
  • Taking certain medications**
    • High blood pressure medications
    • Corticosteroids
    • Benzodiazepines
    • Parkinson’s disease medications
    • Hormone-altering drugs
    • Anticonvulsants
    • Stimulants
    • Gastroesophageal reflux disease and gastrointestinal disorder medications
    • Cholesterol lowering medications

**Note: Talk to your doctor before discontinuing any medications**

What are treatment options for depression?

Depression can be treated using a variety of methods, including therapy, medication, or certain lifestyle changes. There are several antidepressant medications available. Each medication has their own pros and cons, and some trial and error may be necessary before the right medication is found. A doctor may also recommend counseling, therapy, or hospitalization for especially severe episodes of depression. There are also a number of lifestyle changes (such as exercise, meditation, or dietary changes) that can improve the effectiveness of prescribed treatments. While these alternative treatment methods may be helpful, a doctor should be consulted to determine any potential health risks that may be present.

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