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Learning about depression

Depression is feeling sad, blue, unhappy, or down in the dumps. Most people feel this way once in a while.

Clinical depression is a mood disorder. It occurs when feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration get in the way of your life over a long period of time. It also changes how your body works.

Depression is caused by changes in the chemicals in your brain. The condition may start during or after a painful event in your life. It may happen when you take certain medicines. It can also start during or after pregnancy.

Sometimes there is no clear trigger or reason.

What are the Signs of Depression?

You may notice some or all of the following problems. Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms that last for 2 weeks or longer.

You will always have changes in your daily moods or feelings when you are depressed. You may:

  • Feel sad or blue most or all of the time
  • Feel bad-tempered or irritable most of the time, with sudden bursts of anger
  • Not enjoy activities that normally make you happy, including sex
  • Feel hopeless or helpless
  • Not feel good about yourself, or have feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and guilt

Normal daily activities also change when you are depressed. You may:

  • Have trouble sleeping or sleep more than normal
  • Have a hard time concentrating
  • Move around more slowly or seem "jumpy" or agitated
  • Feel much less hungry than before, or even lose weight
  • Feel tired and lack energy
  • Become less active or stop doing usual activities

Depression can lead to thoughts of death or suicide, which can be dangerous. Always talk to a friend or family member and call your doctor when you have these feelings.

Taking Care of Your Depression at Home

There are many things you can do at home to help manage your depression, such as:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Follow a healthy diet.
  • Take medicines correctly. Learn how to manage side effects.
  • Watch for early signs that depression is getting worse. Have a plan if it does.
  • Try to exercise more.
  • Look for activities that make you happy.

Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs. These can make depression worse over time. They may also get in the way of your judgment about suicide.

Talk to someone you trust about your feelings of depression. Try to be around people who are caring and positive. Volunteering or getting involved in group activities may help.

If you are depressed in the fall or winter, ask your doctor about light therapy. This treatment uses a special lamp that acts like the sun.

Taking Medicines for Depression

Some people may feel better after a few weeks of taking antidepressant medicines. Many people need to take these medicines for 4 to 9 months. They need this to get a full response and prevent depression from coming back.

If you need antidepressant medicines, you should take them every day. Your doctor may need to change the type of medicine you take or the dose.

DO NOT stop taking your medicine on your own, even if you feel better or have side effects. Always call your doctor first. When it is time to stop your medicine, your doctor will slowly cut down the amount you take over time.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy and counseling can help many people with depression. It also helps you learn ways to deal with your feelings and thoughts.

There are many different types of talk therapy. Effective treatment often combines:

  • Talk therapy
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Medicine

References

American Psychiatric Association. Major depressive disorder. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013:160-168.

Fava M, Østergaard SD, Cassano P. Mood disorders: depressive disorders (major depressive disorder). In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 29.

National Institute of Mental Health website. Depression. www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml. Updated February 2018. Accessed October 15, 2018.

  • Depression

    Animation

  •  

    Depression - Animation

    If you often feel sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps, you may have depression. Let's talk about depression, and what you can do to get out of your funk. Depression often runs in families. This may be due to your genes, passed down by your parents and grandparents, the behaviors you learn at home, or both. Even if your genetic makeup makes you more likely to develop depression, a stressful or unhappy life event may triggers the depression. Depression can have many causes, including internal factors like genetics, or negative personality. External factors, substance misuse, or trauma and loss. Common triggers include alcohol or drug use, and medical problems long-term pain, cancer or even sleeping problems. Stressful life events, like getting laid off, abuse at home or on the job, neglect, family problems, death of a loved one, or divorce, can send someone spiraling into depression. There are three main types of depression; major depression, atypical depression and dysthymia. To be diagnosed with major depression, you must demonstrate 5 or more of the primary symptoms for at least two weeks. Atypical depression occurs in about a third of patients with depression, with symptoms including overeating, oversleeping, and feeling like you are weighed down. Dysthymia is a milder form of depression that can last for years if not treated. Other forms include the depression that is part of bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, occurring after a woman gives birth, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, occurring 1 week before a woman's menstrual period and seasonal affective disorder, occurring in both males and females during the fall and winter seasons. No matter what type of depression you have and how severe it is, some self-care steps can help. Get enough sleep if you can, exercise regularly, and follow a healthy, nutritious diet. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. Get involved in activities that make you happy and spend time with family and friends. If you are religious, talk to a clergy member. Consider meditation, tai chi, or other relaxation methods. If you are depressed for 2 weeks or longer, contact your doctor or other health professional before your symptoms get worse. Treatment will depend on your symptoms. For mild depression, counseling and self-care may be enough. Either psychotherapy or antidepressant medicines may help, but they are often more effective when combined. Vigorous exercise and light therapy could offer significant benefit alone or in combination. Healthy lifestyle habits can help prevent and treat depression, and reduce the chances of it coming back. Talk therapy and antidepressant medication can also make you less likely to become depressed again. In fact, talk therapy may help you through times of grief, stress, or low mood. In general, staying active, making a difference in the life of others, getting outside and keeping in close contact with other people is important for preventing depression.

  • Forms of depression

    Forms of depression - illustration

    Depression is defined as a mood disorder, and there are several subtypes. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is considered in a separate category.

    Forms of depression

    illustration

  • Depression

    Animation

  •  

    Depression - Animation

    If you often feel sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps, you may have depression. Let's talk about depression, and what you can do to get out of your funk. Depression often runs in families. This may be due to your genes, passed down by your parents and grandparents, the behaviors you learn at home, or both. Even if your genetic makeup makes you more likely to develop depression, a stressful or unhappy life event may triggers the depression. Depression can have many causes, including internal factors like genetics, or negative personality. External factors, substance misuse, or trauma and loss. Common triggers include alcohol or drug use, and medical problems long-term pain, cancer or even sleeping problems. Stressful life events, like getting laid off, abuse at home or on the job, neglect, family problems, death of a loved one, or divorce, can send someone spiraling into depression. There are three main types of depression; major depression, atypical depression and dysthymia. To be diagnosed with major depression, you must demonstrate 5 or more of the primary symptoms for at least two weeks. Atypical depression occurs in about a third of patients with depression, with symptoms including overeating, oversleeping, and feeling like you are weighed down. Dysthymia is a milder form of depression that can last for years if not treated. Other forms include the depression that is part of bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, occurring after a woman gives birth, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, occurring 1 week before a woman's menstrual period and seasonal affective disorder, occurring in both males and females during the fall and winter seasons. No matter what type of depression you have and how severe it is, some self-care steps can help. Get enough sleep if you can, exercise regularly, and follow a healthy, nutritious diet. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. Get involved in activities that make you happy and spend time with family and friends. If you are religious, talk to a clergy member. Consider meditation, tai chi, or other relaxation methods. If you are depressed for 2 weeks or longer, contact your doctor or other health professional before your symptoms get worse. Treatment will depend on your symptoms. For mild depression, counseling and self-care may be enough. Either psychotherapy or antidepressant medicines may help, but they are often more effective when combined. Vigorous exercise and light therapy could offer significant benefit alone or in combination. Healthy lifestyle habits can help prevent and treat depression, and reduce the chances of it coming back. Talk therapy and antidepressant medication can also make you less likely to become depressed again. In fact, talk therapy may help you through times of grief, stress, or low mood. In general, staying active, making a difference in the life of others, getting outside and keeping in close contact with other people is important for preventing depression.

  • Forms of depression

    Forms of depression - illustration

    Depression is defined as a mood disorder, and there are several subtypes. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is considered in a separate category.

    Forms of depression

    illustration

A Closer Look

 

Self Care

 
 

Review Date: 10/12/2018

Reviewed By: Ryan James Kimmel, MD, Medical Director of Hospital Psychiatry at the University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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