Depression is a brain disease that makes you sad, but it is different than normal sadness. Depression can make it hard for you to work, study, or do everyday tasks. Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Treatments for these conditions work by changing the chemistry of the brain.
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Depression And How Do I Know If I Am Depressed?
Depressed people feel down most of the time f or at least 2 weeks.
They also have at least 1 of these 2 symptoms:
They no longer enjoy or care about doing the things they used to like to do.
They feel sad, down, hopeless, or cranky most of the day, almost every day.
Is There Any Tests OR Quizzes I Can Take To Find Out If I Have Depression?
We sat down with Dr. Walter Jacobson, a leading psychiatrist in Southern California, to talk about what causes depression, how it feels, and the signs of depression.
Dr. Jacobson first explains the difference between sadness, bereavement, and major depressive disorder. He then dives into the ultimate depression checklist, how to diagnose the disorder based on the symptoms, the different types of depression, and why depression and anxiety are related.
What Are The Treatments For Depression?
People who have depression can:
Take medicines that relieve depression
See a counselor (such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse, or social worker)
People with depression that is not too severe can get better by taking medicines or talking with a counselor. People with severe depression usually need medicines to get better, and might also need to see a counselor.
Some people whose depression makes them feel very sad might need "shock treatment" to get better. Doctors call this treatment ECT. During ECT, doctors pass an electric current through a person's brain in a safe way.
How Do I Decide Which Treatment To Gave?
You and your doctor or nurse will need to work together to choose a treatment for you. Medicines might work a little faster than counseling. But medicines can also cause side effects. Plus, some people do not like the idea of taking medicine.
On the other hand, seeing a counselor involves talking about your feelings with a stranger. That is hard for some people.
What Causes Depression?
Genetics and Biology: Twin, adoption, and family studies have linked depression to genetics. But, researchers are not yet certain about all the genetic risk factors for depression.
Brain Chemistry Imbalance: Depression is believed to be caused by an imbalance in the neurotransmitters which are involved in mood regulation.
Female Sex Hormones: It has been widely documented that women suffer from major depression about twice as often as men. Because the incidence of depressive disorders peaks during women's reproductive years, it is believed that hormonal risk factors may be to blame.
Circadian Rhythm Disturbance: One type of depression, called seasonal affective disorder (officially known as major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern) is believed to be caused by a disturbance in the normal circadian rhythm of the body.
Poor Nutrition: A poor diet can contribute to depression in several ways. A variety of vitamin and mineral deficiencies are known to cause symptoms of depression.
Physical Health Problems: The mind and the body are clearly linked. If you are experiencing a physical health problem you may discover changes in your mental health as well.
Drugs & Alcohol: Drugs and alcohol can contribute to depressive disorders. But, even some prescription drugs have been linked to depression.
Stressful Life Events: Stressful life events, which overwhelm a person's ability to cope, may be a cause of depression.
Grief and Loss: Following the loss of a loved one, grieving individuals experience many of the same symptoms of depression. Trouble sleeping, poor appetite, and a loss of pleasure or interest in activities are a normal response to loss.
When Will I Feel Better?
Both treatment options take a little while to start working.
Many people who take medicines start to feel better within 2 weeks, but it might be 4 to 8 weeks before the medicine has its full effect.
Many people who see a counselor start to feel better within a few weeks, but it might take 8 to 10 weeks to get the greatest benefit.
If the first treatment you try does not help you, tell your doctor or nurse, but do not give up. Some people need to try different treatments or combinations of treatments before they find an approach that works.
Your doctor, nurse, or counselor can work with you to find the treatment that is right for you. He or she can also help you figure out how to cope while you search for the right treatment or are waiting for your treatment to start working.
Is Depression The Same For Teenagers?
No. The symptoms of depression are a little different for teenagers than they are for adults. Some teenagers are moody or sad a lot of the time. That makes it hard to tell when they are really depressed.
Teenagers who are depressed often seem cranky. They get easily "annoyed" or "bothered." They might even pick fights with people. Also, when treating a teenager, doctors and nurses usually suggest trying counseling first, before trying medicine. That's because there is a small chance that depression medicines can cause problems for some teenagers. Even so, some depressed teenagers need medicine. And most experts agree that depression medicine is safe and appropriate to use in teenagers who really need it.
What If I Take Medicine For Depression And I Want To Get Pregnant?
Some depression medicines can cause problems for unborn babies. But having untreated depression during pregnancy can also cause problems. If you want to get pregnant, tell your doctor but do not stop taking your medicines. The two of you can plan the safest way for you to have your baby.
Are There Any Natural Remedies For Depression?
Exercise. For more immediate, symptomatic depression treatment, there is no better method than regular aerobic exercise. Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of a daily workout for improving emotional health and boosting self confidence. I recommend thirty minutes of continuous activity, at least five days a week for best results.
Check your meds. Make sure you are not taking any over-the-counter or prescription medications that contribute to depression. Avoid all antihistamines, tranquilizers, sleeping pills and narcotics if you have any tendency toward depression. You should also be cautious about the use of recreational drugs, notably alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, downers, marijuana and ecstasy. These substances may provide a temporary sense of relief, but are likely to intensify depression to dangerous levels if used regularly.
Cut caffeine. Addiction to coffee and other forms of caffeine often interferes with normal moods and can aggravate depression.
Try acupuncture. This modality has proven itself to be very useful in treating several mood disorders, including depression.
Seek professional help. Find a psychotherapist, mental health professional or grief counselor who can help you explore the elements contributing to your depression and facilitate recovery. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be especially helpful.
Antidepressant medications. Speak to your physician to determine if you are a candidate for anti-depressant medication. Proceed with caution, however, as an analysis by British researchers published in February, 2008, suggested that many commonly prescribed antidepressant pharmaceuticals have limited effectiveness.
Nutrition and Supplements For Depression
B vitamins. The B vitamins, especially folic acid and vitamin B6, can be helpful in mild depression, and you should know that B vitamins can increase the efficacy of prescription anti-depressants.
St. John’s wort. St. John’s wort is an herbal remedy that has long been used in Europe as a treatment for mood disorders. Standardized extracts have shown an effectiveness equaling Prozac in the treatment of mild to moderate forms of the disease. It should not be taken with anti-retroviral medications, birth control pills, or antidepressant medications, especially SSRIs like Prozac or Celexa. Try 300mg of an extract standardized to 0.3 percent hypericin, three times a day. It’s full effect will be felt in about eight weeks.
SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). Has the advantage of working more quickly than St John’s wort. Use only the butanedisulfonate form in enteric-coated tablets, or in capsules. Try 400-1,600 mg a day on an empty stomach.
Fish oil. Recent preliminary studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may be helpful in maintaining a healthy mind. I think that reasonable doses of fish-oil supplements (1,000 – 2,000 mg per day) might be useful in addressing mild depression. Fish oil is an excellent source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an essential fatty acid found in nerve and brain tissue.
In addition, follow a well-balanced diet and include an antioxidant multi-vitamin/mineral supplement to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs for all the essential nutrients.
Can Depression Be Cured?
While depression can be treated, and symptoms can be alleviated, depression cannot be “cured.” Instead, remission is the goal. There’s no universally accepted definition of remission, as it varies for each person. People may still have symptoms or impaired functioning with remission.
Depression also has a high risk of recurrence. At least 50 percent of individuals who’ve experienced one episode of depression have one or more depressive episodes. Individuals who’ve had at least two episodes may have at least one more depressive episode.
As with any chronic condition, even though it may recur, there are treatments available to reduce the severity of your symptoms, manage your condition, and give you support.
This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your healthcare provider. This is only a brief summary of general information. It does NOT include all information about conditions, illnesses, injuries, tests, procedures, treatments, therapies, discharge instructions or lifestyle choices that may apply to you. You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider’s advice, instructions or recommendations. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to provide advice that is right for you.
You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider’s advice, instructions or recommendations. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to provide advice that is right for you.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This content is intended for informational purposes only. It should not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you have a medical emergency, call 911 or your doctor immediately.