Understanding Depression

Depression is a common and treatable condition. It is a brain condition that leaves a person sad. It is different from normal sadness.

Depression can make it hard to work, concentrate or do everyday tasks. Depression can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or health situation. It can affect people of any race or ethnic group. It is never a normal part of life.

Identifying and supporting those facing depression can start by asking #OneMoreQuestion. Read more.

Depression is very common

In 2016, an estimated 16.2 million adults in the US had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 6.7% of all US adults. This information can be found on the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Primary Symptoms

  • Feeling “down” for at least 2 weeks
  • No longer enjoying or caring about doing the things they used to like to do
  • Feel sad, down, hopeless or cranky most of the day, every day

Other Symptoms

  • Lose or gain weight
  • Sleep too much or too little
  • Feel tired or have no energy
  • Feel guilty or worthless
  • Forget things or feel confused
  • Think about death or suicide

What causes depression?

Depression is a condition of the brain, but its exact causes are not always clear. Current understanding is that people inherit both vulnerability and resilience to depression through genetics.

Life’s stresses can create changes in the brain chemistry and structure. These changes can lead to many symptoms of depression.

Other contributing factors can include hormone changes, grief, sleep disturbance, medication, substance use or other medical conditions.

It is common to experience both anxiety and depression. About half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Most people with depression experience some anxiety symptoms.

Treatment options

Safe and effective treatments for depression are available. They include seeing a psychotherapist, taking medications or a combination of both.

Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy helps people learn skills and make lifestyle changes that can treat depression. Research shows that people often make big improvements in depression after just two or three therapy visits, though therapy sometimes continues longer than that.

Medications. Medications are useful for reducing symptoms of depression. The benefits of medications can be felt as early as the first or second week of treatment. Medications can cause side effects that most often go away over time. Successful treatment may require dosage adjustments and regular monitoring by a health care provider.

Depression in special populations

Teenagers, older adults and postpartum women might be at a higher risk for depression. Whether symptoms are mild, moderate or severe, recovery is possible with proper treatment.

Tips to help yourself

  • Exercise. It’s a great way to lift your mood and take care of your body. Brisk walking, running, cycling or doing upper or lower body weight lifting three to five times per week for 45-60 minutes helps fight depression.
  • Eat right. A balanced and healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats will help keep your body healthy.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. They may worsen symptoms of depression. They may also interfere with your treatment.
  • Be with others. The support of family and friends is important for recovery. Talking openly with people you trust helps.

Talk to your health care provider about possible treatment options.

If you are thinking about suicide, help is available.

  • Call your health care provider and tell them it is urgent
  • Call 9-1-1
  • Go to the emergency room at your local hospital
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Call the 24-hour Crisis Line 866-427-4747

Warning signs of suicide

Seek help if you or someone you know is:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to hurt oneself such as seeking firearms
  • Having feelings of hopelessness or uncontrolled anger
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky behavior
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends or family
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes
  • Seeing no reason to stay alive

For more details, visit the American Psychiatric Association at Psychiatry.org/depression

Our behavioral medicine physicians meet with patients at eight of our conveniently located clinics. To get a full picture of your physical health and rule out contributing factors, and see if a behavioral medicine appointment is right for you, schedule an initial visit with one of our relationship-based primary care physicians.

*Always check with your insurance provider to find out if you need pre-authorization or to determine the level of coverage your carrier provides for behavioral health.

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