Depression – Causes and Treatments


Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world and it can affect people of all ages. Depression is treatable and most people find that their symptoms improve as they take steps to get help. The first step is talking to a family doctor or a mental health professional.

Depression can be caused by a combination of factors and the impact on each person is different. Some people may experience only mild depression, while others may have more severe depression with symptoms that last longer and interfere with daily life. Depression can also affect your thinking and feelings about yourself and the world around you, making it hard to cope and feel hopeless or worthless.

Certain medical conditions such as thyroid problems, menopause and cancer may increase the risk of depression. Other causes of depression include changes in brain chemistry (neurotransmitters), environmental stressors and hereditary traits.

Some types of psychotherapy may help treat depression. Cognitive behavior therapy, interpersonal therapy and psychodynamic therapy are a few that have been shown to be effective in treating depression.

Lifestyle changes can also be helpful in preventing and treating depression. It is important to follow a healthy diet and to exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. It is also important to avoid alcohol and recreational drugs, which can make depression worse. Sleeping at least eight hours a night is also beneficial. Try to keep up with social activities, even when you don’t feel like it. It is also a good idea to join a support group and to practice self-care, such as bathing, grooming and getting dressed each day.

Other coping skills that can help people overcome depression are to learn ways to relax and refocus their thoughts, such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness practices. It is also a good idea to do things that bring you joy and to build positive self-esteem. Research shows that a small act of kindness to another person can boost your mood, so find some way to help others, whether it is listening to a friend or simply doing something nice for someone else.

In some cases, depression is triggered by a chemical imbalance in the brain and it may be treated with medications. Some antidepressants work to raise the levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Other medications, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, can also improve the symptoms of depression by blocking the action of certain enzymes in the brain that break down neurotransmitters.

It is important to stay on your treatment plan, even when you are feeling better. If you skip psychotherapy sessions or stop taking your medications, your depression symptoms may come back. Talk to your family doctor if you are concerned that your depression isn’t improving or if you have other concerns about your treatment. You can also ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health professional or counselor.