Depression is an illness that affects your mood, making it harder than usual to get through everyday tasks. It also changes how you think about yourself and the world around you, and it may make you feel like you’re worthless or hopeless. The symptoms of depression vary from person to person, but the more you have, the longer they last, and the stronger they are, the more likely you are to be diagnosed with the condition.
Depression can cause problems in your daily life and in your relationships with others. Symptoms can include sadness, emptiness or hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities you usually enjoy, fatigue, trouble sleeping, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, and thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Depression can make you more easily irritable and prone to aggression. It can also interfere with your memory and ability to focus. Some people with depression have physical symptoms, such as a constant feeling of pressure on their chest, tightness in the throat, headaches or digestive problems. Depression can also cause a change in your appetite and weight.
People of all ages can experience depression, but it’s more common in adults. It’s also more common in women than in men, and it can be hard to recognize in boys and girls because their emotions are different from the typical “blues.” Some studies suggest that depression is partly caused by hormone changes that happen during pregnancy or the weeks or months afterward (postpartum), and during menopause and thyroid problems. Inherited traits also play a role. Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives have the condition.
What Can You Do if You Have Depression?
Getting treatment is the best way to help manage your depression. The most effective treatments are antidepressant medication and psychotherapy or talk therapy. You may need to try several kinds of antidepressants before you find the one that works best for you. Psychotherapy, which involves talking to a mental health professional on a regular basis about your feelings and behavior, can help you learn healthier ways of coping. It can also be useful for addressing any underlying problems that are contributing to your depression.
Depression can be a difficult illness to treat. But there are many options for care, and most people with the condition feel better with time and treatment. If your symptoms are severe, you may need psychiatric treatment in a hospital or residential facility. Other treatment options include electroconvulsive therapy, in which electric currents are passed through your brain to stimulate nerve cells that regulate your mood, and transcranial magnetic stimulation, in which magnetic pulses are applied to your head. ECT is used only when other treatments don’t work. There’s no cure for depression, but with treatment you can manage your symptoms and lead a healthy, fulfilling life. Symptoms of depression can return after you start to feel better, but you can take steps to prevent them from coming back. Get treatment early and stick with it.