Depression – What You Need to Know


Depression can affect how you feel and how well you function, and it can last a long time. It’s important to talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling and ask for help if you need it. You might be referred to a mental health professional, or your doctor can offer treatment or prescribe medication for you. Often, depression is treated with psychotherapy and/or antidepressants.

A number of things can cause depression. One theory is that it happens because of a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is the basis of many antidepressant medications. Some research supports this theory, but other studies have found that the problem is more complex. It’s possible that neurotransmitters (chemical messengers between nerve cells) play a role in depression, but other factors — such as hormonal changes, thyroid problems, and menopause — also contribute to the condition.

Other things that can cause or trigger depression include stress and loss of a job or a loved one. People who live in difficult social or economic circumstances are more likely to get depressed. Sometimes a combination of factors makes someone more likely to become depressed, including genetic traits and personality characteristics.

It’s also possible that depression is partly a result of physical illness or certain medications that you take for other conditions, such as heart disease or gastrointestinal disorders. In some cases, the symptoms of depression may be mistaken for the symptoms of a medical condition. If you have depression, don’t wait for a routine screening to look for it. Talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling, and be sure to mention any other symptoms you’re having.

You can reduce your chances of depression by following a healthy diet and getting enough sleep, exercise, and socialization. Make sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Try to limit foods that are high in sugar and fat. Minimize your consumption of alcohol and nicotine, and drink plenty of water.

Try to think positively and avoid negative thoughts. If you’re having trouble doing this on your own, consider seeking the help of a therapist or taking part in a support group for depression.

You can also boost your mood by expressing yourself creatively or doing fun activities. It might seem hard to do these things when you’re depressed, but they can help to lift your mood and give you a break from the constant negative self-talk that can be a feature of depression. Try keeping a “negative thought log” by jotting down every negative thought you have, along with what triggered it. Then work to replace these negative thoughts with more realistic ones. For example, if your significant other is short with you, instead of automatically assuming the relationship is in trouble, try thinking, “My partner probably just had a bad day.” It’s also helpful to notice good things that happen in your life, and to tell others about them. It might be tempting to turn to friends who are also depressed, but it’s better to seek the company of those who will be supportive and encouraging rather than someone who will complain or rehash your problems.