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Depression – A Common Illness That Can Be Treated
Depression is an illness that interferes with your ability to work, study, sleep, eat and enjoy life. It is a common illness that can be treated.
Most people who are diagnosed with depression recover well, though the length of treatment may vary. It is important to have regular appointments with a health care provider, such as your doctor or a mental health professional (psychologist or psychiatrist).
Symptoms of depression include sadness, hopelessness, irritability and anger, numbness, difficulty thinking clearly, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, aches and pains, and weight changes. Some people with depression have thoughts of suicide or self-harm. These symptoms can be present for long periods of time and can be very distressing. People with depression often feel they don’t deserve help or that no one will understand their feelings. This can make it hard to talk about them, even to a family doctor or loved one.
Researchers think depression is caused by many factors, including a chemical imbalance in the brain. They think this imbalance is due to how the brain controls mood and how the brain reacts to stress. Other causes include changes in hormones and inherited traits. Some types of depression run in families, and women have a higher risk for the disorder than men.
Inherited traits affect whether you will develop depression, but lifestyle and environmental factors can also increase your chances of developing it. Several studies have shown that living in an urban area increases your chance of having depression. Other factors can include problems at home, work or school; relationships; financial status; and where you live. Depression can sometimes be caused by other medical conditions, such as thyroid disease, a vitamin deficiency or an infection.
To diagnose depression, a health care provider will do an examination and ask questions about your symptoms. They may use questionnaires, such as the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale or Beck Depression Inventory, to check for depression. They may order a blood test to check for physical causes, such as low vitamin D or an underactive thyroid.
You may need to try more than one type of antidepressant before you find the right medicine for you. It usually takes 4 to 8 weeks for new medicines to start working. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your doctor will work out a safe treatment plan for you.
It is possible to prevent depression by having good support systems, getting plenty of rest and exercise, eating a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol and illegal drugs and being aware of the warning signs of depression. It is also important to take medications as prescribed and to see your health care provider for follow-up appointments. If you decide to change your dose or stop taking antidepressants, do it slowly. Sudden changes can increase your risk of a bad reaction to the medication. Talk to your doctor first. If you are not satisfied with the doctor’s response, ask for a second opinion.