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Depression – Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Prevention
Depression affects your mood and feelings, and can make it difficult to carry out your daily activities. It can also make it hard to think clearly, and can lead to problems with work or school. Depression is different from being sad or feeling low for a short time. It is a long-lasting and serious illness that needs treatment.
Symptoms of depression include sadness, tiredness, guilt or hopelessness, trouble with concentration and thinking, loss of appetite, and aches and pains in your body. Depression can also affect your relationships, and can cause you to feel worthless or helpless. Depression can make suicide seem like the only way out, but it is important to seek help if you are having thoughts of hurting yourself. You can find help in many places, including your doctor, a mental health professional, a support group, and a friend or family member. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “help” to 741742.
The exact causes of depression aren’t always clear, but they often result from a combination of factors. Certain illnesses, such as cancer or bipolar disorder, can trigger depression, but it is often brought on by life events. Loss of a job or relationship, ongoing stress at home or work, and being exposed to violence, abuse, or poverty can all contribute to depression. Genetics and personality also play a role. People with a low self-esteem or who are easily overwhelmed by stress, and those who have a family history of depression, are at increased risk for the disease.
Some treatments for depression include therapy, exercise, and healthy eating habits. Therapy can help you learn to change the negative ways you think and behave, and to deal with problems in your life. Some types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy, can also help you build better relationships. Exercise can improve your mood, and can be even more helpful when combined with therapy. Getting enough sleep is important, too. Sleep deprivation can make depression symptoms worse, such as irritability and sadness.
If lifestyle changes and therapy don’t help, your doctor may prescribe medicine to treat depression. Antidepressants can help by changing the chemicals in your brain that influence your emotions. It can take 4 to 6 weeks for these medicines to start working. You should not stop taking your medicine unless you talk to your doctor first. There are newer antidepressants that are easier to tolerate, and they can be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. NIMH researchers are studying new treatments for depression in clinical trials. If you are interested in participating in a trial, you can ask your healthcare provider about them and learn more about the benefits and risks of being part of a research study. The goal of a clinical trial is to find out whether a new test or treatment works and is safe. If you are considering participating in a clinical trial, it is important to know that it is not a guarantee that you will receive the treatment being studied or that you will get better.