What is depression?
Depression is a psychiatric illness that affects one in six people in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of people with depression do not realize that they have a treatable illness and do not seek treatment.
Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of despondency. It is different from the short-lived feeling of unhappiness when a person feels down at times. If this feeling stays for months on end, the person must talk to people close to them about it or seek professional help. This is because untreated severe depression can culminate in suicide, the tenth leading cause of death reported in the United States.
How is depression treated?
A person with depression may initially turn to family and friends to get emotional support from them. Venting their feelings (mental catharsis) in front of people close to them helps calm down their depressive feelings. If these feelings keep coming back or are persistent, it becomes necessary to seek professional help for depression.
Psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and mental therapists are the various professionals who help to treat or counsel people with depression. Medications prescribed for depression known as antidepressants exhibit their effects within a week. They may sometimes take more than a week to work best. Along with medications, various therapies are employed to treat depression that includes psychotherapies (cognitive behavioral therapy) that help patients with depression to change the way they feel about the situations in their life.
People who receive support from friends and family and who are in touch with professional psychiatric support are less likely to act on their suicidal impulses than are those who remain aloof.
What causes depression and suicidal tendencies?
Depression could happen when there is a decrease in the functional balance of the brain chemicals e.g., serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemicals (neurotransmitters) transfer the information from one nerve cell to another. Decreased norepinephrine causes dullness and lethargy and decreased serotonin causes irritability, hostility, mood swings and suicidal ideation.
A single factor does not cause depression, rather the cause is multifactorial.
Not everyone affected by depression ends their life. However, some factors greatly increase an individual’s risk of suicide.
The common ones include
- Family history of depression/suicide
- Alcohol abuse
- Substance abuse (especially opiates and cocaine)
- Family violence
- Separation or divorce in the family
Other risk factors include
- Lack of social support
- Constant negative attitude
- Loss of a loved one
- Failure in career or personal/social relationships
- Prior suicide attempt(s)
- Presence of a firearm in the home
- Exposure to the suicidal behavior of family members, peers and celebrities
- Battling with a chronic illness or terminal stage of a disease
- Antidepressant medication use(it is necessary to take them under strict medical supervision)
Depression can also be due to an existing physical illness. A medical examination by a doctor will help rule out other such causes.
What are the signs of depression?
Anyone who feels down most of the day nearly every day for weeks or months may be suffering from clinical depression. There are certain signs or behavioral changes that can help someone to check if they or their close loved one is suffering from depression. These are
- Loss of pleasure in all activities
- A feeling of lack of energy
- Feeling of fatigue
- Feeling unmotivated
- Frequent tearfulness
- Unable to concentrate
- Memory problems
- Insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep)
- Feeling tired the next day even after getting an adequate number of hours of sleep the night before
- An increase or decrease in appetite
- Weight loss
- Loss of interest in sex
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feelings of guilt
- Unrealistic ideas and worries
- Hopelessness about the future
- Constant feeling of negativity
- Thoughts of suicide
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
UC Santa Cruz
Top Depression and Suicide Related Articles
Bipolar SlideshowBipolar disorder (once called manic depression) causes extreme mood shifts and can be disorienting. Our experts define bipolar disorder, discuss bipolar symptoms, and describe bipolar medications that can help.
How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treat Depression?Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) uses cognitive strategies to help people change patterns in the way they think and behavioral strategies to help people change behaviors that aren't helpful. CBT can help people with mild-to-moderate major depressive disorder.
DepressionDepression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. The principal types of depression are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disease (also called manic-depressive disease).
Depression in ChildrenChildhood depression can interfere with social activities, interests, schoolwork and family life. Symptoms and signs include anger, social withdrawal, vocal outbursts, fatigue, physical complaints, and thoughts of suicide. Treatment may involve psychotherapy and medication.
Depression in the ElderlyDepression in the elderly is very common. That doesn't mean, though, it's normal. Treatment may involve antidepressants, psychotherapy, or electroconvulsive therapy.
Depression SlideshowWhat is depression? Get information on symptoms, signs, tests, and treatments for many types of depression including major depression, chronic depression, teen depression, and postpartum depression.
Depression QuizMany people do not recognize the symptoms and warning signs of depression and depressive disorders in children and adults. With proper diagnosis, treatments and medications are available. Take this quiz to learn more about recovery from depression.
Depression Tips SlidesThe right exercise, diet, and activities -- even playing with a pet --can help you recover from depression. Learn simple lifestyle changes you can do to improve your mood.
DysthymiaDysthymia is a less severe form of chronic depression. Symptoms and signs include insomnia, suicidal thoughts, guilt, empty feeling, loss of energy, helplessness, sluggishness, and persistent aches and pains. Treatment may involve psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy, and antidepressants.
Holiday Depression, Anxiety, and StressThough the holidays are a fun time for most, for others, they're a sad, lonely and anxiety-filled time. Get tips on how to avoid depression and stress during the holiday season.
Myths and Facts About Depression SlideshowFolk remedies and half-truths still prevent many from getting treatment for depression. WebMD's pictures show unusual symptoms in men, seniors, and others, along with many ways to recover.
Postpartum DepressionPostpartum depression is a form of depression that occurs within a year after delivery. It is thought that rapid hormone changes after childbirth may lead to depression. Symptoms of postpartum depression include crying a lot, headaches, chest pains, eating too little or too much, sleeping too little or too much, withdrawal from friends and family, and feeling irritable, sad, hopeless, worthless, guilty, and overwhelmed. Treatment typically involves talk therapy and medication.
Teen DepressionDepression in teenagers may be caused by many factors. Symptoms of teen depression include apathy, irresponsible behavior, sadness, sudden drop in grades, withdrawal from friends, and alcohol and drug use. Treatment of depression in adolescents may involve psychotherapy and medications.
What Is Major Depression Disorder?The American Psychiatric Association defines major depressive disorder (depression) as a common, but serious, medical illness that negatively affects how one feels, thinks and acts. Depression causes sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and decrease a person’s ability to function at work and home.
What Is a Nervous Breakdown?A nervous or mental breakdown is a general term used to describe a period of overwhelming mental distress. This term is usually used to refer to an intense set of emotions a person experiences in a wide variety of mental illnesses, including depression, stress disorder, and anxiety.