Depression affects more than just the person who has it – it takes a toll on family members, friends and co-workers. It can also be a huge burden on society as a whole, with people with untreated depression often losing jobs, homes and families, or even taking their own lives. This is because depression impacts every part of your life, from how you feel and think to your energy levels and appetite. It can make it difficult to get out of bed or go to work, to keep up with daily activities and responsibilities, or even to find joy in the things you used to enjoy.
Many different factors can cause depression, and it isn’t always easy to tell whether you are depressed. Some people may develop depression as a result of traumatic events, such as relationship problems or the death of someone close to them. Others may have depression as a result of an illness or injury, including long-term health issues such as cancer or conditions like dementia. People can also develop depression if they have certain genes or medical conditions, such as bipolar disorder or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
Although some people who suffer from depression say that it feels like living in a black hole or having an endless feeling of impending doom, others may experience more subtle symptoms, such as tiredness or difficulty sleeping, low self-esteem, apathy or a lack of interest in life and little or no energy. The good news is that most depression is very treatable, and there are a number of helpful ways to help manage your symptoms.
Some of the most common treatments for depression are medications and psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. Studies have shown that a combination of medications and psychotherapy is often more effective than either one alone. Psychotherapy helps you learn to recognize and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Some types of psychotherapy that can be used to treat depression include cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy.
Keeping in touch with friends and family, if possible, can also be very beneficial. People who are depressed may be tempted to isolate themselves, but this can actually make symptoms worse over time.
You can start treatment for depression by making an appointment with your health care provider. This could be your primary care doctor, a mental health professional or a psychiatrist. Your provider will ask you questions about your symptoms and how they have affected your day-to-day life. It’s important to be honest and clear with your provider.
You can also talk to your health care provider about participating in a clinical trial for depression. These trials are research studies that test new ways to prevent, detect or treat diseases and disorders, including depression. They may be done at a hospital, clinic, or in the community and they usually don’t cost anything. You can find out more about clinical trials by visiting the NIMH website. It can take some trial and error to find the right mix of treatment for you.