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Depression is more than just "the blues" or feeling sad for a few days. It is is a serious medical illness that involves the brain. It's symptoms persist and interfere with your everyday life. More than 20 million people in the United States have depression.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Feeling hopeless, sad, discouraged, or empty
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • Problems concentrating or focusing
  • Irritability
  • Aches and pains
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
* If you or a loved one have feelings of wanting to die, or thoughts of suicide, please seek help immediately!

Causes of Depression

Unfortunately, it is not fully known what exactly causes depression. It likely results from a combination of things. We do know that depression is related to physical changes in the brain, and connected to an imbalance of a type of chemical that carries signals in your brain and nerves. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain. They play a role in everything the brain regulates, including mood and emotions. Lower levels of three neurotransmitters´┐Żserotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine´┐Żhave been found in people suffering from depression. However, it is unclear whether these lower levels cause the depression or whether the depressive illness itself causes the lower levels. Depression also tends to run in families. It usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30. It is much more common in women. Women can also get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter. Depression is also one part of bipolar disorder.

Risk Factors for Depression

Depression can happen to anyone at anytime. It can appear to start for no reason at all but some of the more common risk factors for developing depression are:

  • Stress caused by a job loss, a divorce, or a chronic medical condition
  • Family or personal history of depression or mood disorders
  • The unexpected loss of a loved one
  • History of physical, sexual, or mental abuse
  • Major changes in your life, like starting a new job, graduating from school, or getting married.
  • Low self-esteem, Negative outlook on life
  • Substance abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Certain medications
  • Social isolation

Treatment for Depression

Treatment for depression includes medications and therapy.


Medication does not cure depression but helps with the symptoms. It is important to identify and correct the underlying cause of your depression. However, if depression is impairing your ability to perform everyday activities, organize your life, or work through a difficult time in your life, medication may be helpful in getting you to a point that you can accomplish these things. The medications used to treat depression are called antidepressants. There are many different types of antidepressant and your doctor will choose a particular antidepressant based on your symptoms. With most antidepressants, it will take up to 4 weeks to notice a change in how you feel. If there is little or no change in symptoms after 5 to 6 weeks, a different medication may be needed, and you should discuss this with your physician. Since all of these medications have potential side effects, it is important to work with your doctor to determine which medication is best for you.


Therapy can help a depressed person in several ways. First, supportive counseling helps ease the pain of depression, the feelings of isolation, and addresses the feelings of hopelessness that accompany depression. Often someone who is depressed does not even know why they feel this way. That's where Cognitive therapy can be helpful. Cognitive therapy can help someone who is depressed figure out the cause. It can help them recognize which life problems are critical, and which are minor. It also helps him/her to develop positive life goals, and a more positive outlook. Together with the therapist, they can identify the areas of the person's life that are creating significant stress, and contributing to the depression. They can work together to form a plan for solving these problems and reducing the stress. The therapist will help the patient establish new patterns of thinking and new problem solving skills. Therapy can be individual, group, marriage, or family. Family is a key part of the team that helps people with depression get better. It is helpful for family members to understand what their loved one is going through, what they can do to help, and how they themselves can cope.

It is often very difficult for people to seek help for depression. They may feel that they are not normal, that it's their fault, or they may feel that will eventually "snap out of it". For people with depression, this simply isn't true. 16% of Americans will have depression during their lifetime. Once diagnosed, there are very effective treatments available. Left undiagnosed and untreated, depression can worsen, lasting for years and causing untold suffering, and possibly even result in suicide. If you are suffering from the symptoms of depression, please see your doctor. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Sometimes just making a few modifications to your lifestyle that include a healthy diet, exercise, and seeking the support of family and friends can be enough to help mild depression without further treatment. Moderate to severe depression however will need further treatment, but there are effective treatments that will help you feel better so you can start living a happy, healthy life again!

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DISCLAIMER: The information on this website should NOT be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only. In no way should it be considered as offering medical advice. Please contact your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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