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Depression – What You Need to Know
Depression isn’t just feeling sad or down – it is a serious mental health condition that requires medical attention. It affects people of all ages, genders and races. Many people mistakenly think of depression as a weakness or a character flaw, but it is a real illness with a number of treatments available. Depression can be caused by a variety of things, including life events (losing your job, bereavement), physical illnesses and certain medications. It can also run in families, and it may happen because of a chemical imbalance in your brain.
If you’re depressed, you need treatment – and the sooner you start, the better. Symptoms of depression can include sadness, irritability, a lack of interest or pleasure in activities, sleep disturbances, low energy, feelings of hopelessness and guilt or thoughts of suicide. They can also affect how you think, such as thinking more negatively about yourself. In children and teens, the symptoms can include feelings of worthlessness or misunderstood, clinginess, poor performance in school or refusing to go, eating too little or more, substance use and a low appetite.
Treatment for depression usually includes psychotherapy, or talk therapy, and sometimes medication. Your doctor can help you decide what kind of therapy is best for you. Psychotherapy helps you identify and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors that contribute to depression. It can also help you understand what is causing your depression and provide you with tools to overcome it. Psychotherapy can be done individually or in groups, and it can take a few weeks or several months to see improvement.
There are a number of different types of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. In addition, there are a number of self-help strategies you can try, such as reading a book on depression or joining a support group. Exercise can be helpful in reducing depression, as can getting enough rest. You should also avoid unhealthy substances like drugs or alcohol and make sure you are getting plenty of social interaction.
Medication can be a good option if other treatments don’t work, especially if you have a family history of depression or are experiencing serious symptoms. There are a number of antidepressants on the market, and it may take time to find one that works well for you. You should tell your doctor what other medicines and supplements you are taking, because some may interact with certain antidepressants.
Depression can be difficult to diagnose and treat, but it’s important to know that you don’t have to suffer in silence. If you’re depressed, reach out to someone you trust – a friend, a family member, a faith leader or a mental health professional. If you aren’t sure where to turn, seek help as soon as possible.