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Depression – What is It and How Can You Treat It?
Depression is a mental illness that can cause significant symptoms and have a negative impact on daily life. Unfortunately, depression is common – about one in five people will experience it at some point in their lives. The disorder isn’t a one-size-fits-all, but there are effective treatments that can help you manage your symptoms and feel better.
Depression happens when the normal chemicals in your brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, don’t work properly. This imbalance affects your mood and can lead to feelings of sadness, hopelessness and guilt.
Your mood is also affected by other things, such as your health and lifestyle. Medical illnesses such as heart disease and cancer may increase your risk of developing depression.
If you think you’re depressed, see your doctor. They can help you get a diagnosis and start treatment. They’ll perform a physical exam, do lab tests and look at your psychiatric history.
They’ll also ask you about your thoughts and behavior patterns. They’ll use the criteria in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” to make the diagnosis.
The symptoms of depression can vary from person to person, but they generally include low mood, fatigue, sleeping too much or too little, poor concentration and thoughts of death or suicide. Having these symptoms can cause problems with your relationships, work or family.
You should seek help from a health care professional if your symptoms last for more than 2 weeks or if they are getting worse. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room right away.
Depending on your specific needs, your healthcare provider may recommend different treatment approaches. These could involve psychotherapy (talk therapy) or medication.
Talking with a therapist can teach you new ways to think about problems and how to change unhealthy behaviors. They can also help you find new coping skills and ways to avoid triggers that can bring on your depressive symptoms.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, focuses on how your thoughts and behaviors affect your moods. This type of treatment is often the best way to get your depression under control.
Medication, including antidepressants, is another effective treatment for depression. They target the brain’s chemistry, changing the balance of chemicals that contribute to mood problems. These drugs can be taken daily, for a few months or longer, and sometimes a combination of them is used.
These medications usually have few side effects. They work by increasing the availability of certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin. They’re used to treat many types of depression, but may not be right for everyone.
They are typically taken in combination with a medication that targets other areas of the brain. These combinations can be more effective than taking just one medicine.
Other options for treating depression include transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). These procedures use a coil to send magnetic pulses through your brain to stimulate your brain’s nerve cells.