What is depression?
Everyone now and then feels down or sad. But these feelings are usually temporary and disappear within a couple of days. However, when you have depression, it interferes with daily routine and causes pain for both you and those around you that care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness. Depression, even the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression.
Several factors, or a combination of factors, may contribute to depression.
Genes—people with a family history of depression may be more likely to develop it than those whose families do not have the illness.
Brain chemistry—people with depression have different brain chemistry than those without the illness.
Stress—loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger depression.
The first step is to schedule a visit to doctor or mental health professional. He or she can do an exam or lab tests to rule out other conditions that may have the same symptoms as depression.
The doctor should get a complete history of symptoms, including when they started, how long they have lasted, and how bad they are. He or she should also know whether they have occurred before, and if so, how they were treated. He or she should also ask if there is a history of depression in your family. Medications called antidepressants can work well to treat depression.
Antidepressants can have side effects including:
Psychotherapy can also help treat depression. Psychotherapy helps by teaching new ways of thinking and behaving, and changing habits that may be contributing to the depression.
Varieties of Depression
Major depressive disorder, or major depression:
This form is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person's ability to perform everyday activities such as work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. Some people may experience only a single episode within their lifetime, but more often a person may have multiple episodes. Depression is a common but serious illness.
Dysthymic disorder, or dysthymia, is characterized by long-term (2+ years) symptoms that may not be as severe enough to disable a person but can prevent normal functioning or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetimes.
Minor depression is characterized by having symptoms for 2+ weeks that do not meet full criteria for major depression. Treatment for minor depression is important because without treatment, people with minor depression are at high risk for developing major depressive disorder.
Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances.