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Depression – What You Need to Know
Depression is a serious disorder that can affect your everyday life. It is usually treated with medication, therapy or a combination of both. If the symptoms don’t improve, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or other brain stimulation therapies may be an option.
Symptoms of depression can vary from person to person, and they may be different for each family. But they often include a change in sleeping habits, weight gain or loss, fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, anger, irritability and poor concentration. These changes can make it hard for the person with depression to function and enjoy life.
Treatment for depression aims to reduce symptoms and get the person back on track. Depending on the severity of the condition, therapy can take several sessions or months to help you feel better.
Your brain chemistry, hormone levels and genes can all play a role in your risk of developing depression. The chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy and good, called neurotransmitters, can be out of balance when you have depression. Hormones that change during pregnancy, menopause or other periods in your life can also make you more likely to get depressed.
Genetics and your family history are also factors that can increase your risk of depression. If you have a first-degree relative, like a parent or sibling, who has had depression or another mood disorder, you’re more likely to develop it too.
Stressful events in your life, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, unemployment or a health problem, can also trigger depression. Certain medical conditions and a history of substance use can increase your risk, too.
Changing your diet and exercise, and getting more sleep can improve your mood as well. Journaling, writing or talking in a therapy session can also be helpful, though it’s important to talk to your doctor about these options.
Self-help guides and websites are also good sources of information about how to deal with depression. Taking up a new hobby, joining a support group or getting active in your community are all ways you can help to improve your mental health.
Some people find it helpful to talk with a friend or family member who has been through depression. Be supportive and reassuring, letting the person know you are there for them if they need to talk.
If you want to try to treat your depression yourself, you can do so by taking antidepressants or by undergoing psychotherapy (talking to a professional about your thoughts and feelings). Medication helps change your brain chemistry and is effective in most cases.
You may need to take multiple medications, so talk to your doctor about what’s best for you. Using medications in combination with other types of therapy or psychotherapy can be the most effective approach.
Avoiding alcohol, drugs and other substances can also help to relieve symptoms of depression. They can have a depressing effect and can cause other side effects that you’ll need to talk about with your doctor.