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Depression – What You Need to Know
Depression is a common, debilitating and potentially lethal mental health disorder that affects people of all ages. It can be hard to recognize, but it’s treatable. It’s important to get help right away, especially if you’re having thoughts of suicide or other serious symptoms.
Depression occurs when certain chemicals in your brain are not working properly. This can cause feelings of sadness, anger or hopelessness. There are a variety of treatments for depression, including medications, psychotherapy and a combination of the two.
Medications are the most common treatment for depression and work by increasing the availability of chemicals in your brain. They increase the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps your mood. Antidepressants are the most commonly used drugs and tend to have few side effects. Other drugs, like monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), may be used as well.
Antidepressants are usually taken daily. Depending on the severity of your depression, your doctor may also prescribe therapy or counseling to prevent relapses. It takes several weeks to several months for an antidepressant to take full effect. During this time, it’s important to continue taking the medication.
Other treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy, family and couples therapy and problem-solving therapy. These therapies help you identify and reshape your thought and behavior patterns that contribute to your depression. They can also help you develop more effective ways of handling difficult situations in your life, such as getting a job or dealing with a relationship problem.
Your doctor will conduct a complete medical and psychological evaluation, including a physical examination and an interview to learn about your symptoms. This will help your doctor determine the type of depression you have, as well as your family and cultural background. Your doctor can also perform a blood test to make sure that the depression isn’t caused by a medical condition or vitamin deficiency.
The evaluation will help your doctor make a diagnosis of the type of depression you have and plan the best course of treatment. Often, the doctor will try several different treatments before finding one that works.
Symptoms of depression vary, but most people feel sad, hopeless and tired. They can also experience sleep problems or loss of appetite. They can lose interest in activities that they once enjoyed and become irritable or impulsive. They might withdraw from friends and family.
A person who is feeling depressed may have lost a loved one or experienced other traumatic events that may trigger the depression. Having a traumatic experience can increase your chances of developing depression, as can a history of chronic illness or having a stressful job.
There are many causes of depression, including genetics, biochemistry and environmental factors. A person who has a parent with depression is more likely to have the disease than someone who doesn’t have depression in their family, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other risk factors are chronic illness, a poor family background and financial problems.