How to Recognize and Treat Depression


People who have depression often feel empty or hopeless, and they lose interest in things that normally make them happy. They may also have trouble sleeping or concentrating and experience sadness or anxiety. Depression can be a long-lasting illness, but it is treatable. If you think you are depressed, talk to your health care provider right away. They will do a physical exam and interview you to help you determine your symptoms. A primary care doctor or a specialist in mental health can diagnose depression and help you manage it.

Depression affects everyone differently. It can range from mild to severe. It can last for days, months or years. Sometimes, it can even be life-threatening. There are many things that can cause depression, including genetics, brain changes and being around a lot of stress. It is also common for people who have suffered abuse or who are dealing with a major loss to get depressed. Women are more likely to develop depression than men.

Symptoms of depression can vary according to age. Children who have depression may be cranky or sad a lot of the time, refuse to go to school and cling to parents. They may have suicidal thoughts or plan how to kill themselves. Teenagers and young adults may have trouble sleeping or have appetite changes. They may also have problems concentrating in class or with their work. Depression can also interfere with relationships and social activities.

Some treatments for depression include psychotherapy (talk therapy with a mental health professional) and medication. A therapist can help you identify unhealthy emotions and negative patterns of thinking and behavior and teach you healthier ways to deal with them. There are many types of psychotherapy, and it can take a while to find the one that works best for you. Medications that reduce the levels of certain neurotransmitters in your brain can ease symptoms of depression. They can be pills, injections or a special brain stimulation technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation or electroconvulsive therapy. These are usually used when lifestyle changes, therapy and self-guided relaxation techniques don’t work.

It is important to recognize the signs of depression and get treatment right away, especially if you are worried about someone else. If you know a person who is depressed, try to help them by being supportive and encouraging. Encourage them to see a healthcare provider or therapist.

If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number. You can also call a crisis center or talk to your minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community. For more information about depression, including what to expect from treatment, visit NIMH’s Depression page. NIMH also offers information in Spanish. Depression screenings are now recommended as part of routine checkups by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. It is important that you let your health care provider know if you are thinking about suicide so they can help you.