Want to know more about depression? What it is and what to do about it?
We asked the National Institutes of Health for answers to basic questions.
We know: 1-Minute Lesson on Depression
What is depression?
The National Institutes of Health encyclopedia defines depression 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. But true clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for an extended time."
What are the kinds of depression?
There are three common types of depressive disorders, including:
What are the symptoms of depression and mania?
The number and severity of symptoms varies with individuals and also varies over time.
What are some of the causes of depression?
Some types of depression run in families, suggesting that a biological vulnerability can be inherited. This seems to be the case with bipolar disorder.
In some families, major depression also seems to occur generation after generation. However, it can also occur in people who have no family history of depression.
People who have low self-esteem, who consistently view themselves and the world with pessimism or who are readily overwhelmed by stress, are prone to depression.
Physical changes in the body can be accompanied by mental changes as well. Medical illnesses such as stroke, a heart attack, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and hormonal disorders can cause depressive illness.
What about treatment?
If you think you may be suffering from depression, talk to your doctor or a licensed therapist. There are several strategies for treating depression.
There are a variety of antidepressant medications and psychotherapies that can be used to treat depressive disorders. Some people with milder forms may do well with psychotherapy alone. People with moderate to severe depression most often benefit from antidepressants. Most do best with combined treatment.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is useful, particularly for individuals whose depression is severe or life threatening or who cannot take antidepressant medication.
What kinds of medications are available?
Consult your doctor about medications. Some of the current anti-depressants are called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). tricyclics, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Most people who have bipolar disorder take more than one medication including, along with lithium and/or an anticonvulsant, a medication for accompanying agitation, anxiety, depression, or insomnia. Finding the best possible combination of these medications is of utmost importance to the patient and requires close monitoring by the physician.
What about herbs?
In the United States, herbs such as St. John's wort are not as commonly recommended by doctors as they are in Europe. Today in Germany, for example, St. John's wort is used in the treatment of depression more than any other anti-depressant. However, the scientific studies that have been conducted on its use have been short-term and have used several different doses.