Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods.
Clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for a longer period of time.
For more information on the symptoms and treatment of depression, see:
Blues; Gloom; Sadness; Melancholy
Symptoms of depression include:
Low self-esteem is common with depression. It is also common to have sudden bursts of anger and a lack of pleasure from activities that normally make you happy, including sex.
Depressed children may not have the same symptoms as depressed adults. Watch for changes in school work, sleep, and behavior. If you wonder whether your child might be depressed, it's worth talking to a health care provider.
The main types of depression include:
Other common forms of depression include:
Depression may also alternate with mania (known as manic depression or bipolar disorder).
Depression may be more common in women than men. This may be because women tend to seek help for it more. Depression is also more common during the teenage years.
Depression often runs in families. This may be due to your genes (inherited), behaviors you learn at home, or both. Even if your genes make you more likely to develop depression, a stressful or unhappy life event usually triggers the depression.
Many factors can cause depression, including:
If you are depressed for 2 weeks or longer, contact your doctor or other health professional before your symptoms get worse.
No matter what type of depression you have and how severe it is, the following self-care steps can help:
If your depression occurs in the fall or winter months, try light therapy using a special lamp that is like sunlight.
If you have moderate to severe depression, the most effective treatment plan will likely involve a combination of talk therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call 911, a suicide hotline, or go to a nearby emergency room if you have thoughts of harming yourself or others.
Call your doctor if:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your health care provider will find out how severe your depression is (mild, moderate, or severe) and look for the cause by doing a:
If there is a risk of suicide, you may need to stay in the hospital for treatment.
You will talk with the health care provider about the issues and events that may be causing your depression. Your doctor will ask you about:
Treatment will depend on your symptoms. For mild depression, counseling and self-care may be enough. The most effective therapy for moderate or severe depression is a combination of antidepressant medication and talk therapy.
Your primary care doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist if your depression is moderate to severe, or if it does not improve with treatment.
For more treatment information, see: Major depression
Healthy lifestyle habits can help prevent depression, and reduce the chances of it coming back. Talk therapy and antidepressant medication can also make you less likely to become depressed again.
Talk therapy may help you through times of grief, stress, or low mood. Family therapy may help teens who feel sad.
Keeping close contact with other people is important for preventing depression.
Fava M, Cassano P. Mood disorders: Major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 29.
American Psychiatric Association. Practice guidelines for the treatment of patients with major depressive disorder. 2nd ed. September 2007.
Review Date: 3/25/2012
Reviewed By: Timothy Rogge, MD, Medical Director, Family Medical Psychiatry Center, Kirkland, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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