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Depression – What You Need to Know
Depression is a serious mood disorder that affects your feelings, thoughts, and physical well-being. It is a chronic illness, and you are at risk for having more episodes of it throughout your life if you don’t get treatment.
The disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and can occur alone or with other disorders, such as anxiety and bipolar disorder. It can be triggered by specific events, such as divorce or bereavement, but it can also develop without a clear cause. It tends to run in families and may be inherited from parents or siblings.
Symptoms of depression vary from person to person, but some common symptoms include: feeling down or hopeless most of the time, having low energy and appetite, sleep problems, irritability, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, and a lack of interest in most things. These feelings usually last longer than two weeks, and they often make it difficult to function normally.
Treatment for depression is very effective. Over 80% to 90% of people with depression will respond to treatment and will eventually feel better. There are several kinds of treatments, including medication and psychotherapy.
Antidepressants are the most common treatment, and they work by blocking certain brain chemicals from being produced. Your doctor will prescribe a drug that is right for you. Your provider will start you on a low dose and gradually increase the amount until you are taking the full therapeutic dose.
Some people also need to use other kinds of medication, such as a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic. These drugs can help you get better, but they can have side effects and can’t be used for long.
Your doctor may recommend some kind of exercise or relaxation, such as meditation, yoga or tai chi. They can also prescribe counseling or group therapy.
Family members of someone with depression can be a support to them, but they should not attempt to treat the disorder themselves. This can lead to a cycle of depression and lack of support.
If you’re thinking about suicide, talk to a mental health professional as soon as possible. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for 15- to 29-year-olds.
A teen who feels sad or down most of the time, has a change in sleeping patterns and wants to spend most of their time with friends may be depressed. The doctor will do a physical examination to check for medical causes of the depression. If a medical condition is found, it can be treated before treating depression.
Alternative medicine is not a substitute for conventional medical or psychological care and is not appropriate in all cases of depression. There are some alternative treatments that can be helpful for milder cases of depression, such as herbs, vitamins or acupuncture.
You may also want to consider a program that involves psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). These types of treatment can be very effective in helping you deal with the feelings of sadness and hopelessness that can accompany depression.