Depression is a serious mood disorder that causes extreme feelings of sadness and loss of interest. It is sometimes called a major depressive disorder or clinical depression, and it affects the way people feel, think, and behave. People who suffer from depression may struggle to do everyday things and may even feel hopeless at times. It can be treated and managed successfully.
The exact cause of depression is unknown, but there are certain factors that contribute to it. People who suffer from depression may have more than one contributing factor. Some of these risk factors include:
- Biological changes: People who suffer from depression often have physical changes or differences in their brains.
- Neurotransmitter function: Everyone has neurotransmitters in their brains, and when they fail to work properly, it can result in depression.
- Hormones: When hormones become unbalanced, it can trigger or cause depression. It can also make depression worse.
- Inherited traits: There is evidence that depression can be inherited. It is much more common in people who have blood relatives who also suffer from the disease.
The symptoms of depression can vary. Some people only have mild symptoms, and others have severe symptoms. Some people may experience a couple of symptoms, while others may experience many more. Some of the most common symptoms of depression include:
- Memory loss
- Personality changes
- Physical aches and pains
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep problems
- Loss of interest in sex
- Social withdrawal
- Suicidal thoughts
Depression can sometimes be hard to diagnose because the symptoms can mimic those of other mood and behavior disorders. Doctors may need to rule out other diseases and causes to provide an accurate diagnosis. Some of the common diagnostic methods used include:
- Physical exam: Doctors will check to make sure the patient is not suffering from any physical issues that could be causing the symptoms.
- Lab tests: Doctors may order lab tests to make sure blood and hormone levels are normal and to rule out any infections or parasites.
- Psychiatric evaluation: The doctor will ask the patient about his or her symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns to confirm a diagnosis of depression.
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There are several different ways that doctors treat depression. The method depends on the patient’s overall health problems. In many cases, doctors and patients have to try several different treatment options to see which one is the most effective at treating depression. Some common treatments include:
- Medications: There are many different types of depression medications that can help treat the disease. Each medication uses a different combination of chemicals to help manage the patient’s mood. Some medications can be used together, and others work better on their own. Over time, patients can develop a tolerance to medications and may need to switch types frequently.
- Therapy: Some patients respond well to therapy and may need to schedule weekly sessions with a counselor or psychologist.
- Hospitalization: Patients who have severe depression, have attempted suicide, or have suicidal thoughts may need to be hospitalized where they can be treated with a number of methods.
- Meditation: Some people prefer to manage their depression with meditation. With this method, they can calm themselves down and may take meditation classes on a regular basis.
In most cases, depression cannot be cured. Some people do come out of depression for long periods of time, but most have to work to manage it throughout their lives. Patients who take medication will likely always have to take it. Once a patient finds a treatment method that works, they are usually able to successfully manage their symptoms and live normal lives.
American Psychiatric Association.