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Depression – Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Depression is a serious medical condition that affects how you feel, think and act. But it is treatable. You can learn to cope with your symptoms through therapy and other treatments. Most people who have depression respond to treatment well.

Depression may be caused by a variety of factors. Some are biological, some are environmental and others are personal. Exactly what causes it is not completely known, but changes in brain chemistry appear to play a role. These changes involve chemicals called neurotransmitters, which relay messages between nerve cells in the brain. Some of these changes also appear to disrupt the normal functioning of neurocircuits that regulate mood. Medications used to treat depression work by helping these neurotransmitters function normally.

The symptoms of depression include sadness, a loss of interest in usual activities, sleep disturbances and a low self-esteem. These symptoms are different for everyone, but they must last two weeks and be a noticeable change from previous experiences to be considered depression. Depression may also cause physical problems, such as a feeling of heaviness or fatigue, a rapid heart rate or headaches. It is important to see a doctor if you have these symptoms, because they can sometimes be confused with other illnesses, such as heart disease or cancer.

There are many things that can cause depression, including a genetic predisposition, family history and a lack of social support. A history of bereavement or relationship problems can increase your risk of depression. People who are easily overwhelmed by stress, who have low self-esteem or are pessimistic and those who have a history of trauma or abuse are at higher risk for developing depression. Depression can also be triggered by a change in hormone levels, such as those that occur during pregnancy and the week or months after delivery, thyroid problems, menopause or drug and alcohol use.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, get help right away. Call 911 or your local emergency number or text TALK to 741741 to speak with a crisis counselor. You can also go to a hospital emergency room or an urgent care center, or contact your doctor or mental health professional.

Psychotherapy is one of the most common and effective treatments for depression. This involves talking with a licensed therapist who has training in treating depression. Some types of psychotherapy for depression include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy. It is important for families to participate in the therapy, so they can learn how to support their child and practice new skills at home.

Usually, psychotherapy for depression is combined with medication. This can help ease your feelings, so you can focus on getting better. Most people who have depression find that their symptoms improve with time, but it takes some people longer than others. If you are taking medication for depression, be sure to stick with the plan and follow your doctor’s instructions.

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