Depression is an illness with a wide range of symptoms. It can make it difficult to sleep, eat and get enough energy. It affects mood and can cause feelings of sadness, worthlessness, guilt and hopelessness. It can also cause physical problems such as headache or stomachache and a reduced ability to function at work or school. It can be accompanied by suicidal thoughts. Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80% and 90% of people who seek treatment improve their symptoms.
Depression can be caused by a variety of factors, including brain chemistry and hormone changes. It may be triggered by stressful life events, or it can happen for no apparent reason. Psychiatrists today generally look at depression as a complex disorder that’s probably influenced by a combination of biological, psychological and social (or environmental) factors.
People who have depression often blame a chemical imbalance in their brains. This idea has been promoted by popular books like Prozac and its sequels. But the truth is much more complicated. It’s possible that faulty mood regulation contributes to depression, but scientists are also finding that certain genes increase a person’s risk. It’s also likely that brain circuits, nerve cell connections and the activity of neurotransmitters all play a role in depression.
Scientists have found that some of the most effective treatments for depression include medications and psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy. Depending on the person, one or the other can be used alone or in combination. Other therapies, such as electroconvulsive therapy or deep brain stimulation, can be used to treat severe depression that does not respond to medication or psychotherapy.
For a person with depression, the best way to help them recover is to be supportive and encourage them to get treatment. The best treatments also include healthy living habits, such as getting enough sleep and exercising. Staying away from drugs and alcohol can also help. It’s important to educate friends and family members about depression so they can recognize warning signs that the person might be slipping back into a depressed state.
Depression can be hard on everyone who lives with or cares for a person who has it. Depression can make relationships strained and cause problems at work or school. It can lead to a loss of interest in hobbies and activities that were once pleasurable. It can also make it harder to find jobs or keep them, especially if the depression is lasting for a long time. Some people who have depression are at a higher risk of suicide. If a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This service is available around the clock, 365 days a year.