Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life. But when feelings of sadness and hopelessness take hold and don’t go away, you may have depression. It can interfere with your daily activities, and it is a medical condition that needs to be treated.
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, but it also is among the most treatable. Almost everyone who gets treatment recovers. It is important to get treatment early.
Depression can cause a wide range of symptoms, including sadness, fatigue, changes in eating and sleeping, numbness or tingling, trouble thinking clearly, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt. People who have depression may have a harder time connecting with others, and they may feel isolated and withdrawn from friends and family members. Depression can be very dangerous if not treated, and it is important to seek help if you have any thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
A health care provider can diagnose depression by doing a physical exam and talking with you about your symptoms. A health care provider may also order blood tests to make sure that your depression isn’t caused by a medical problem such as thyroid disease or a vitamin deficiency.
Psychiatrists today generally look at depression in “bio-psycho-social” terms, meaning that the illness can be triggered by overlapping biological, psychological, and social (or environmental) factors. Genetics are believed to be a significant factor in depression, and some studies have linked 269 genes to the disorder.
However, it is also known that stressful life events and the use of drugs and alcohol can contribute to depression. The disease can be more likely to occur in women than in men, and it is more prevalent in people with a history of family mental illness or a family history of depression. It is thought that certain medical conditions, such as chronic pain and heart disease, increase the risk of depression.
If you have depression, it’s important to take steps to reduce stress and get enough sleep and exercise. Talking to a therapist can be helpful, and it is important to have supportive friends and family. If a loved one has depression, it’s important for the whole family to understand the illness and how to respond so that they can offer support.
It is common for friends and family to feel a sense of guilt about their loved one’s illness, especially if the person who has depression says things like, “I just can’t seem to get out of this.” It’s also important to remember that the brain is a complex machine that functions in many different ways. There are millions, perhaps billions, of chemical reactions that take place within and between nerve cells. There is no single cause for depression. Depression is not caused by a lack of love or attention. In fact, when a person with depression feels better, they are often more attentive to their loved ones. They just don’t have the same ability to express it.