Depression Symptoms and Treatment

Depression is more than just feeling down; it’s a serious mental health condition that can be hard to treat. It affects how you feel, think and act. It can make it hard to function in work and relationships. It’s important to get treatment when you first notice symptoms of depression. It can help you recover and feel better.

Depression symptoms can vary from person to person. They can include feelings of sadness, guilt or worthlessness. Other symptoms can include difficulty sleeping or thinking, irritability or anger and loss of interest or pleasure in activities that you usually enjoy. People with depression may also have a change in appetite and weight loss or gain. People with severe depression may have suicidal thoughts or hallucinations. People who have these extreme symptoms should seek immediate care from a doctor or emergency services.

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your family history. He or she will check for a medical cause for the depression, such as thyroid problems or a brain tumor. Your doctor will then do a psychiatric evaluation. The evaluation will involve talking to you about your symptoms, thoughts and feelings. The doctor will use the diagnostic criteria in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Scientists don’t know exactly what causes depression, but they do know that some things are more likely to cause it than others. A family history of depression is one risk factor. So is a history of substance abuse, especially drugs or alcohol. Hormone changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy and in the weeks or months after birth or as a result of menopause can also be a factor. Depression is more common in women, and researchers are trying to find genes that may contribute to the illness.

Treatment for depression includes psychological and medication therapy. Medicine can help balance the chemicals in your brain that control mood. It can take 4 to 6 weeks for these medicines to start working. You might have to try several different medicines before you find the one that works best for you. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can help you learn healthier ways to cope with your problems and improve your relationships. Psychotherapy can include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you identify and reshape negative thinking patterns, interpersonal therapy, family and couples counseling and problem-solving therapy.

You can also help yourself by taking steps to manage your environment and daily life. For example, try to sleep and wake up at about the same time each day and spend some time doing activities you enjoy. Eat a balanced diet, including healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Exercise regularly. Keep in touch with friends and family. Avoid substances that can interfere with your mood, such as nicotine, alcohol and illegal drugs. Postpone major decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you’re feeling better.