Depression – Causes and Symptoms


Depression is a mood disorder that affects people from all walks of life. It is the world’s leading cause of disability and can lead to suicide. Depression is a complex illness and can be difficult to understand, but it is treatable. People with depression can feel better with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. Depression can cause problems in work, school and social activities. Symptoms include feeling sad or hopeless, having trouble sleeping or eating, and having low self-esteem. Symptoms can be present for a long time and interfere with daily life.

Popular lore says emotions reside in the heart, but scientific research points to the brain as the seat of mood. Researchers have discovered that levels of certain brain chemicals, nerve cell growth and the functioning of nerve circuits all play a role in depression. Clinical trials that involve healthy volunteers and people with depression help scientists learn more about the causes of the disease and find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat it.

Some people have a genetic tendency toward depression. Others can develop it from life events, including the death of a loved one, chronic illnesses and stressful situations like unemployment. People of any age can experience depression, but it is more common in children and teenagers and among women than men.

People who have depression are often not diagnosed and treated because of a lack of awareness about the condition and the fact that some symptoms do not show up in standard medical tests. A person who feels down for more than two weeks should see a doctor, especially if symptoms interfere with daily life and if the person is thinking about suicide.

A doctor can identify depression and other mental health conditions by looking at a patient’s history, doing a physical exam and performing laboratory tests. He or she may also ask questions about feelings and thoughts to assess a person’s mood. Depression is not contagious, but it can be spread through relationships. People who have depression can be irritable or angry, and they might not want to spend time with friends and family. Some people are more prone to depression than others because of changes in their hormones, such as during pregnancy or menopause.

Depression can be triggered by events, such as a loss or breakup in a relationship, a car accident, a job layoff or the death of a loved one. It can be worsened by stress, alcohol and drugs. People who have depression can be more prone to having other health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.

Depression is treatable, but it can take some time to find the right treatment. Medications, such as antidepressants, may change the way your brain works to help relieve symptoms. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can help you deal with painful emotions and behaviors. There are many types of psychotherapy, but the most commonly used is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Some people need brief therapy while others require several months or years of therapy.