Depression is a serious illness, but it’s treatable. Most people recover with therapy or medicines (such as antidepressants) and lifestyle changes. It’s important to get treatment early so that symptoms don’t get worse.
Depression can feel like a deep sadness, or it may be more of an empty feeling that’s hard to describe. Some people have trouble enjoying things that usually make them happy, or they might feel irritated or frustrated easily. In extreme cases, some people have thoughts of suicide. If you or someone you know has these thoughts, call a suicide prevention hotline right away. (The number in the US is 1-800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741.)
It’s difficult to predict who will get depressed, because different causes of depression affect different people in different ways. For example, some people develop depression after a bereavement or relationship breakdown. Others become depressed after an accident or illness. Depression can run in the family, and some people have a higher risk of depression if a parent or sibling has it.
People who have certain personality traits or life experiences are also more likely to develop depression. These include low self-esteem, being overly critical or negative about themselves, and a history of trauma or abuse. People who’ve had depression in the past are more likely to have it again.
Some depression treatments have a strong evidence base, and new ones are being developed all the time. It’s important to follow your doctor’s advice, because one of the best predictors of whether treatment works is how closely you stick with it.
Talking therapies, such as psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help you change the way you think and behave to reduce your symptoms. They can also help you manage stress and improve your relationships and work. Psychotherapy can be done alone or with a group. There are many types of talking therapies, and some have been shown to be more effective than others. Some are called “talking treatments,” and some are given in combination with medicine.
Depression can make you feel tired and sluggish. Eating well and getting enough sleep can help you have more energy. You can also try to spend more time in nature, and take up hobbies that are relaxing.
People with depression often have difficulty concentrating or making decisions. If this is the case for you, you may find it helpful to write down what you’re thinking and doing so that you can look at it later.
If you’re interested in trying a new treatment for depression, ask your doctor about clinical trials. Clinical trials are research studies that test whether a new treatment or approach is safe and effective. If you do decide to participate, be sure to tell your health care provider if you have any other medical conditions or are taking any medicines, including herbal remedies or vitamins. They may need to adjust your dosage or stop or start another treatment. They’ll also want to know if you have a family history of mental illness.