Depression is a medical condition that leads to intense feelings of sadness or despair. These feelings do not go away by themselves. They are not necessarily related to a particular life event.
Depression is a disorder of the brain. Researchers believe that chemicals called neurotransmitters are involved in depression. Nerve impulses cause the release of neurotransmitters from one nerve cell to the next. This release allows cells to communicate with one another. Too little or too much of these important neurotransmitters may be released and cause or contribute to depression. Some of the neurotransmitters believed to be linked to depression are serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
Some of the common types of depression are: Bipolar disorder: Also called manic depression, bipolar disorder is a type of depression that has either subtle or extreme "high" periods alternating with "low" periods of depression for years.Dysthymia: This type of chronic depression is characterized by ongoing symptoms of depression.Major depressive disorder: This type of clinical depression is characterized by a severe lack of interest in the things that were once enjoyed or nonstop feelings of sadness.Seasonal affective disorder: This type of depression occurs seasonally and is caused by lack of sunlight.Adjustment affective disorder. This type of depression usually occurs after a major loss or negative change in a person's life.
Some symptoms are common in people of all ages with depression. These symptoms include: appetite problemsdecreased energydifficulty paying attention or making decisionsfeeling very sensitive emotionallyfeelings of irritabilityfeelings of sadness, despair, and emptinessinability to feel pleasurelow self-esteemloss of motivation and withdrawal from otherspessimism, negativitysleeping problemsthoughts about suicide and death
Children, adolescents, or elderly people who are depressed may have other symptoms.
There are many theories about what causes depression. Depression may be caused by any of these things: certain illnessescertain medicines, including antibiotics and medicines used to treat acnechanges in brain chemicalsheredityhormonal changeslack of sunlightmajor stressesnegative thinking patterns
Risk factors for depression include: alcohol abusedrug abuse and addictionjob strainpersonal history of a suicide attemptpersonal or family history of depressionstress
Risk factors for depression can also be specific to an age group, such as children, adolescents, and seniors. Women who have just given birth may be at risk for postpartum depression.
Depression may not be preventable. However, some of these steps may be helpful in preventing it: avoiding alcohol and illegal drugsavoiding cigarette smokinggetting prompt treatment for other psychiatric disordersseeking effective treatment for chronic diseasestalking with a counselor after experiencing a major trauma
Depression can lead to suicide. The lifetime risk of suicide for a person with depression is about 15 percent. It is important to recognize and treat the condition early. Individuals should be encouraged to seek help from a physician, licensed counselor or psychologist if they are concerned about depression. Conversations with clergy members, trusted friends, and family members are important and very helpful, but do not substitute for the clinical care needed to treat depression.
Screening tests for depression include: the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) Scalethe Children's Depression Inventory (CDI) the Zung Depression Scalethe Hamilton Depression Scale
A person who screens positively on one of these tests should have a comprehensive evaluation for depression. The evaluation may include a medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests.
With adequate treatment, many people recover from depression. Some people experience it only once in their lives. Others have periodic bouts of depression.
If depression is not effectively treated, a person can experience serious difficulties in every area of life. Depression often hurts relationships. It also impairs work or academic performance. In some cases, it leads to suicide.
People with depression are at higher risk for many chronic diseases and conditions, including: coronary artery diseaseheart attackpersonality disordersstroke
Depression is not contagious. Depression tends to run in families.
The two most common ways of treating depression are with antidepressant medicines and psychotherapy. Often a combination is used. Occasionally, a person must be hospitalized for intense treatment or for his or her own safety.
Antidepressant medicines are effective in: increasing the person's ability to function in daily lifelowering the risk of suicidemaking the person feel better
The following types of medicines are used to treat depression:selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including paroxetine HCl (i.e., Paxil, Pexeva) and fluoxetine HCl (i.e., Prozac, Serafem)monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as phenelzine sulfate (i.e., Nardil) and tranylcypromine sulfate (i.e., Parnate)other antidepressants, such as nefazodone (i.e., Serzone) and venlafaxine (i.e., Effexor)tetracyclic antidepressants, such as maprotiline HCl and mirtazapine (i.e., Remeron)tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), including amitriptyline, nortriptyline HCl (i.e., Aventyl, Pamelor) and desipramine HCl (i.e., Norpramin).
Psychotherapy can help people: cope better with having depressionfeel less aloneimprove relations with family, friends, and coworkerslearn about depression and how it affects themlearn to recognize and avoid situations that can bring on a depressive episodelearn to view the world and others more positively and more realisticallypositively address problems that they may be facingstop episodes of depression early by recognizing warning signs and symptoms
Antidepressants may cause mild and usually temporary side effects in some people. The most common side effects are: agitationconstipationdizzinessdrowsinessinsomniadry mouthnausea
An individual can help prevent relapses by living a healthy lifestyle. Some important parts of the healthy lifestyle include: avoiding alcohol, illegal drugs, and smokingdoing regular exerciseeating a balanced diet, following the food guide pyramidfinding a support system for dealing with depressionfinding ways to manage stressgetting enough rest
Once a person has an episode of depression, he or she is at higher risk for further episodes. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider. The provider may recommend regular visits to monitor symptoms. The provider may also order blood tests to monitor the levels of medicines.