What is Depression?

Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home.

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, making decisions
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you have five or more of these symptoms for two weeks or more, you may be suffering from depression.

The exact cause of depression is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • Genetics: Depression runs in families, suggesting that there may be a genetic component to the illness.
  • Brain chemistry: Depression may be caused by imbalances in certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine.
  • Stress: Major life stressors, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss, can trigger depression.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid problems, heart disease, and cancer, can increase the risk of depression.
  • Substance abuse: Alcohol and drug abuse can contribute to depression.
  • Medications: Some medications, such as steroids and birth control pills, can cause depression as a side effect.

Depression is a treatable illness. With the right treatment, most people with depression can recover and lead full and productive lives.

The most common treatments for depression are medication and therapy.

Medication: Antidepressant medications can help to improve the symptoms of depression. There are many different types of antidepressant medications available, and it may take some time to find the one that works best for you.

Therapy: Therapy can help you to understand the root of your depression and develop coping mechanisms for dealing with your symptoms. There are many different types of therapy available, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and family therapy.

In some cases, a combination of medication and therapy may be the best treatment for depression.

If you are struggling with depression, it is important to seek professional help. A doctor or mental health professional can help you to diagnose your depression and develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

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