Depression is a complex mental health condition that can have different causes. Symptoms include sadness that doesn’t go away, feelings of hopelessness or guilt and trouble thinking clearly. Depression can cause a loss of interest in activities or a decline in work and school performance. Depression is common and it can be treated with medicine or psychotherapy, but it’s important to get help if you notice symptoms.
There are many things that can cause or worsen depression, including ongoing conflicts with others, a lack of social connections, financial problems, illness or surgery, divorce, loss of a loved one, the birth of a baby or other life changes. Depression can also be a symptom of other medical conditions, such as thyroid disease or heart disease. It’s also more common in women than men. Some people have a family history of depression. Depression can last for months, but it is treatable. If left untreated, it can lead to severe depression with thoughts of suicide.
Some scientists believe that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. But brain chemistry is very complicated, and it isn’t as simple as one chemical being too low and another too high. There are millions of chemicals in the brain that interact, working both inside and outside nerve cells.
A lot of research is being done to find what might cause depression and how it can be treated. Some of the causes that have been identified include:
Hormones. There may be a hormone change that leads to depression. These changes can happen during pregnancy and the weeks or months after delivery, from some medical conditions such as thyroid problems, or from menopause. It’s also possible that inherited genes play a role.
Depression can be made worse by certain behaviors, such as avoiding social situations or becoming isolated. It’s also more common in people who have had other mental or physical illnesses. People who have a family history of depression are more likely to have it themselves.
Psychotherapy (also called talk therapy) can be helpful for depression. It can help you learn to change negative beliefs about yourself and your situation. It can also teach you skills to handle stress and improve your relationships. Psychotherapy can be alone or with family members, and it can take 10 to 15 sessions.
Some people with depression are helped by taking part in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are research studies that test new ways to prevent, diagnose or treat diseases and conditions, including depression. Talk to your doctor about whether you are interested in participating in a clinical trial. They can explain the benefits and risks of clinical trials. They can also tell you about research being conducted at NIMH and other places. Some of the treatment options being studied in clinical trials are psychotherapy and medicines. The goal of a clinical trial is to discover if a new treatment works and is safe. The information gathered from the clinical trial can lead to better treatments for everyone in the future.