Depression is a whole-body illness. It involves the body, mood, and thoughts. Depression affects the way you eat and sleep. It also can affect the way you feel about yourself and things. It is not the same as being unhappy or in a “blue” mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. When you have depression, you can’t “pull yourself together” and get better. Treatment is often needed and many times crucial to recovery.
Depression has different forms, just like many other illnesses. Three of the most common types of depressive disorders include:
There is no clear cause of depression. Experts think it happens because of chemical imbalances in the brain. Many factors can play a role in depression, including environmental, psychological, biological, and genetic factors.
Some types of depression seem to run in families. However, no genes have yet been linked to depression.
Women have depression about twice as often as men. Many hormonal factors may add to the increased rate of depression in women. This includes menstrual cycle changes, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum period, perimenopause, and menopause. Many women also deal with additional stresses such as responsibilities both at work and home, single parenthood, and caring for both children and aging parents.
Many women are especially at risk after giving birth to a baby. Women experience hormonal and physical changes on top of the added responsibility of caring for a baby. These can be factors that lead to postpartum depression in some women. While the “baby blues" are common in new mothers (lasting a week or two), a full-blown depressive episode is not normal and treatment is needed.
The following are the most common symptoms of depression. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.
Depression often happens along with other medical problems, such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. It can also happen with other psychiatric disorders, such as substance abuse or anxiety disorders. Getting an early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to recovery.
A diagnosis is made after a careful psychiatric exam and medical history done by a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.
Generally, based on the outcome of evaluations, treatment of depressive disorders may include one or a combination of the following:
You can also do things to help yourself. Depressive disorders can make you feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Such negative thoughts and feelings may make you feel like giving up. It is important to realize that these negative views are part of the depression and typically do not accurately reflect the actual circumstances. Negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect. In the meantime, if you think you have depression, consider the following:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
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