Depression is a serious illness that can affect anyone. People who suffer from depression may experience a variety of symptoms, including:

  • A deep feeling of sadness that last for months or years;
  • A loss of interest or pleasure in activities'
  • Changes in appetite that result in weight losses or gains unrelated to dieting;
  • Insomnia or oversleeping;
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue;
  • Restlessness or irritability;
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt;
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions;
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or attempts at suicide.
Factors that may contribute to the onset of depression include:
  • Biochemistry. Chemical abnormalities in the brain may contribute to depression, anxiety, irritability and fatigue.
  • Genetics. Depression may run in families. If a parent has depression, there may be a chance the depression could be passed down to a child.
  • Personality. People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic, appear to be vulnerable to depression.
  • Environmental factors. Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make people who are already susceptible to depression all the more vulnerable to the illness.
  • Other medical conditions. Brain tumors or vitamin deficiency can cause depression.
It is important to schedule an appointment with a physician or psychiatrist to rule out general medical causes. In addition, before treatment is recommended, a psychiatrist should conduct a thorough diagnostic evaluation, consisting of an interview and possibly a physical examination. The purpose of the evaluation is to reveal specific symptoms, medical and family history, cultural settings and environmental factors to arrive at a proper diagnosis and to determine the best treatment.

Treatment of Depression
Depression can be treated with counseling and medication. Antidepressant medicate may be prescribed to correct imbalances in the levels of chemicals in the brain. These medications are not sedatives, "uppers" or tranquilizers. Neither are they habit-forming. Generally, antidepressant medications have no stimulating effect on those not experiencing depression. Antidepressants may produce some improvement within the first week or two of treatment. Full benefits may not be realized for two to three months. If a patient feels little or no improvement after several weeks, his or her psychiatrist will alter the does of the medication or will add or substitute another antidepressant.

Psychiatrists usually recommend that patients continue to take mediation for six or more months after symptoms have improved. After two or three episodes of major depression, long-term maintenance treatment may be suggested to decrease the risk of future episodes.

Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," is sometimes used alone for treatment of mild depression; for moderate to severe depression, it is often used in combination with antidepressant medications. Psychotherapy may involve only the individual patient, but it can include others. For example, family or couples therapy can help address specific issues arising within these close relationships. Group therapy involves people with similar illnesses. Depending on the severity of the depression, treatment can take a few weeks or substantially longer. However, in many cases, significant improvement can be made in 10 to 15 sessions.

Depression is never normal and always produces needless suffering. With proper diagnosis and treatment, the vast majority of people with depression will overcome it. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, see your family physician or psychiatrist, describe your concerns and request a thorough evaluation. You will feel better.

Source: American Psychiatric Association