Depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 350 million people affected. Depression is a serious health condition, and differs from normal mood fluctuations and short-lived feelings of sadness. It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and can affect how they perform at work, at school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide, which accounts for an estimated 1 million deaths every year.
If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, understanding more about it can help you cope. In this section, you will find key details about the causes and symptoms of this condition.
As depression is a highly treatable condition, there is comprehensive information on the treatment options available to those with depression.
From time to time, nearly everyone feels depressed, sad or blue. These feelings are a normal reaction to some of life’s struggles, such as the loss of a loved one. But when feelings of intense sadness last for days or weeks on end and they interfere with your ability to function normally, it may be more than just a natural mood fluctuation.
Depression, also called major depression and major depressive disorder, is a common but serious medical illness that affects the way you feel, think and behave. It causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest, and can also trigger physical symptoms. In addition, it can make you feel as though life isn’t worth living.
Depression isn’t a weakness or something you can easily overcome, but rather a chronic illness that often requires long-term treatment. Medications, counseling and other forms of therapy prove to be very effective for treating depression. Despite this, many people with depression never seek treatment.
Depression is most often caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. These include:
Depression affects each person in different ways, so symptoms caused by depression vary from person to person. Symptoms may include:
Certain medications, and some medical conditions such as viruses or a thyroid disorder, can cause the same symptoms as depression. A doctor will often ask some general questions and then conduct a physical exam and laboratory tests to rule out these possibilities. If the doctor can find no medical condition that may be causing the depression, the next step is a psychological evaluation. The doctor may conduct the psychological evaluation or refer you to a mental health specialist.
Once you have a depression diagnosis, your doctor will discuss various treatment options with you. The main treatments for major depression recommended by the World Health Organization are medication and psychotherapy. Usually, a combination of medication and psychotherapy is the most effective treatment for depression.
Although depression is a highly treatable condition, there is no guaranteed way to prevent it.
However, the latest medical studies confirm that depression may often be alleviated and sometimes prevented with good health habits. Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can go a long way in boosting your overall mood and reducing symptoms of depression. Taking steps to control stress, such as scheduling time every week for fun and relaxation, may also work together to prevent a depressed mood.
Strong social support, especially in times of crisis, is another identified way of getting through tough experiences and protecting against depression. Finally, seeking treatment at the earliest sign of a problem can stop depression from worsening.