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What is Depression and How Can it Be Treated?
Depression is a mental health disorder that can affect your mood, thoughts, and actions. It doesn’t go away on its own and can be hard to live with, but treatment can help you get better and stay well.
Depression happens when your feelings of sadness, hopelessness or pessimism are severe enough to interfere with everyday life. It may happen a few times or on a regular basis for weeks, months or years, depending on the type and severity of your depression.
It can occur alone or alongside other medical conditions, such as heart disease or cancer, and it is not the same as a normal feeling of being “blue.” Early diagnosis is key to recovery.
The most common type of depression is major depressive disorder (MDD). It’s characterized by episodes of symptoms that last for at least two weeks. It can also cause long-lasting feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that affect your daily life and relationships with others.
In some people, depression is triggered by a specific event in their lives, such as a death in the family or a job loss. Other people become depressed for no obvious reason.
Biological differences between individuals can make some people more vulnerable to depression than others. For example, changes in the frontal lobe of your brain may increase your risk. The exact significance of these changes is unclear, but they are likely to be important in determining how you respond to stress and what kind of symptoms you have.
Changes in the body’s hormone levels can also raise your risk for depression. They can be caused by pregnancy and the postpartum period, menopause or other conditions.
Hormone balance can also be affected by stress, such as having a recent change in work or family situation. Some types of medications can help control your hormones, such as antidepressants and steroid drugs.
You can also improve your mood by changing your lifestyle and how you spend your time. This includes getting more exercise, eating healthy foods and spending more time with friends or family.
Your doctor or a mental health professional can help you choose the right combination of medicines, talk therapy and other treatments to improve your condition. For some people, antidepressants are the best choice, but it is not always easy to find a medication that will work for you.
Medications that promote neurogenesis, or the growth and enhanced branching of nerve cells in the hippocampus, can be effective for some patients. These medications stimulate the growth of new neurons in the brain, which helps nerves exchange information faster and improve mood.
Drugs can also stimulate the release of serotonin and dopamine, which are chemicals that affect your mood and behavior. These chemicals are produced by certain parts of the brain that control your thoughts, sleep, appetite and feelings of happiness.
These medications can help you feel more positive and focused, but they must be taken regularly to work. They can cause side effects if used in too large a dose or for too long, so they should be taken only as directed by your doctor.