Depression – What is It?


Depression affects how you feel, act and think. It can also interfere with your relationships, work, education and health. Depression is a treatable condition, but it takes time to get better. You can feel better by talking and spending time with others, exercising, getting enough sleep and avoiding alcohol and drugs. If you have a serious or severe case, you may need hospital or residential treatment.

You have depression if your mood is sad or hopeless for most of the day, nearly every day for two weeks or more. You have trouble enjoying or taking pleasure in things you usually like, and you have a hard time concentrating, remembering and making decisions. You may have low self-esteem and guilt and have thoughts about suicide or death. Some people with depression have physical symptoms, such as a stomachache or headache.

Depression can be treated with medicine, counseling or a combination of both. Medicines that help improve your mood are called antidepressants. They increase the number of chemical messengers in your brain that regulate mood. You might also need therapy to learn healthier ways of dealing with problems and changing negative thoughts and behaviors. Talking therapy can help you learn to manage stress and develop new coping skills. Exercise and a healthy diet can also be helpful.

Many different things can cause depression, and it can run in families. Depression can be triggered by events or circumstances, such as losing a job, breakup of a relationship, chronic illness or serious injury. It can be more likely in people who have a history of abuse, have poor family support or live in difficult economic conditions. It’s more common in women than men, and it can happen at any age.

Research suggests that changes in the balance of certain hormones play a role in depression. For example, low levels of thyroid hormones may make depression worse. Biological differences in the structure or function of parts of the brain may also play a role. Some people with depression have changes in their brain chemistry, including an imbalance of neurotransmitters. The effects of these changes can be influenced by genes, early life experiences and personality traits. Depression is also more likely in people who use or have used illicit drugs or are in a toxic relationship. Clinical trials – studies that test new ways to prevent, diagnose or treat disease – are an important source of information about depression. People who participate in clinical trials can help others and gain a better understanding of this illness. Talk with your doctor if you’re interested in participating in one. He or she will ask you questions about your symptoms, family history and other factors that might influence your risk for depression. He or she might also give you a physical exam and do some tests. The results of these tests can help your doctor find the best treatment for you. The sooner you start treatment, the more quickly you’ll feel better.