Depression is a serious mental illness that affects a significant number of people in the United States and around the world. It is a common and devastating condition, but there are treatments that can help people feel better.
It’s important to recognize the signs of depression and get treatment as soon as possible. Getting treatment is the first step to getting better and feeling more like yourself again.
Symptoms of depression may include feelings of sadness, anger, worthlessness, irritability, sleep problems, aches and pains, difficulty concentrating or remembering things, and trouble in relationships. It is normal to experience these symptoms in some periods of your life, but if they last for longer than a few months, they can be debilitating and need to be addressed.
Many people think that depression is caused by low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. But recent research suggests that deficits in this brain chemical by themselves probably don’t cause depression. Rather, they may be linked to certain conditions and other factors that increase your risk for developing depression.
Genetics, socioeconomic status, and medications are also risk factors for developing depression. The risk is increased in people with a family history of depression, as well as in those who have a stressful or dysfunctional life or are diagnosed with another mental health disorder such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
Changes in the balance of hormones, especially estrogen, are known to play a role in the development of depression. This could be a result of pregnancy, menopause or thyroid disease.
A person’s social and financial situation can also contribute to the development of depression, as can stress at work or school. For instance, people with significant financial difficulties or those who have lost a job or have been left out of a group are more likely to develop depression than others.
Having a partner or family member who can offer support and understand your feelings is helpful when dealing with depression. They can help you manage your symptoms, encourage you to seek treatment, and offer you the encouragement you need to stay on track with your plan of recovery.
Give your loved one positive reinforcement when he or she does something good. It is natural for a person who has depression to focus on the negative and judge themselves harshly, but these judgments can be counterproductive. Remind them of all the good things they do, even if they are small, and that you are always there to help.
Encourage them to be physically active and eat a balanced diet, as this can improve their physical health and reduce their risk for developing depression. Regular exercise can help you feel more in control and increase your energy levels, which are necessary to fight off depression.
Make sure your friend or relative is taking their prescribed medication on time, and keep an eye out for any side effects. They may need to take their medicine regularly to prevent their depression from worsening.