What is depression?


Know the basics

What is depression?

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. If sadness lasts for days or weeks, makes it hard to work or do things with family or friends, or involves thoughts of suicide, depression is most likely present. Please discuss with your doctor if you feel you have signs of depression.

How common is depression?

Depression is a very common condition. According to researches, it affects about 80% of people at some point in time of their life and can occur at any age. It’s more common in women than in men. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of depression?

The common signs and symptoms of depression are quite diverse and different in each person, such as when suffering from depression, some people will sleep more, while others are very difficult to sleep or have less appetite. However, there still are some common symptoms, which include:

  • Being unable to concentrate
  • Feeling sad or empty
  • Feeling as if future will not be better
  • Being agitated or restless
  • Losing interest in sex
  • Severe depression may lead to suicidal and homicidal thoughts

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs of depression, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you can. If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, talk to a friend or loved one, a health care professional, a faith leader, or someone else you trust.

If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call your local emergency number immediately.

Also consider these options if you’re having suicidal thoughts:

  • Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.

If a loved one or friend is in danger of attempting suicide or has made an attempt:

  • Make sure someone stays with that person.
  • Call your local emergency number immediately.
  • Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Know the causes

What causes depression?

Several factors, or a combination of factors, may contribute to depression.

Genes—people with a family history of depression may be more likely to develop it than those whose families do not have the illness.

Brain chemistry—people with depression have different brain chemistry than those without the illness.

Stress—loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger depression.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for depression?

Depression often begins in the teens, 20s or 30s, but it can happen at any age. More women are diagnosed with depression than are men, but this may be due in part because women are more likely to seek treatment.

Factors that seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering depression include:

  • History of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorder, eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Abuse of alcohol or illegal drugs;
  • Certain personality traits, such as low self-esteem and being too dependent, self-critical or pessimistic;
  • Serious or chronic illness, including cancer, stroke, chronic pain or heart disease;
  • Certain medications, such as some high blood pressure medications or sleeping pills (talk to your doctor before stopping any medication);
  • Traumatic or stressful events, such as physical or sexual abuse, the death or loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or financial problems;
  • Blood relatives with a history of depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism or suicide.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is depression diagnosed?

Normally, doctors will diagnose from your symptoms and medical history. Besides, the doctor may also ask to make some other tests like blood tests, psychological evaluations … to rule out other conditions that can cause the symptoms you are experiencing, confirm the diagnosis and check for any related complications.

How is depression treated?

Treatments for depression usually involve using medicines, psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy.

Medicines used are antidepressants. Some more common drugs are escitalopram, paroxetine, sertraline, fluoxetine, and citaloppram. These are selective serotonn reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Others are venlafaxine, duloxetine, and bupropion. These drugs may cause some side effects, such as

  • Weight gain
  • Sexual problems
  • Nausea

Psychotherapy can also help treat depression. Psychotherapy helps by teaching new ways of thinking and behaving, and changing habits that may be contributing to the depression. Therapy can help you understand and work through difficult relationships or situations that may be causing your depression or making it worse.

Electroconvulsive therapy. For severe depression that is very difficult to treat and does not respond to medication or therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is sometimes used. Although ECT once had a bad reputation, it has greatly improved and can provide relief for people for whom other treatments have not worked. ECT may cause side effects such as confusion and memory loss. Although these effects are usually short-term, they can sometimes linger.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage depression?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with depression:

  • Do not become isolated;
  • Simplify your life;
  • Exercise regularly;
  • Eat a healthy diet;
  • Learn ways to relax and manage your stress.
  • Do not make important decisions when you are down.
  • Call your doctor if your symptoms get worse;
  • Call your doctor if you have side effects from your medicines.
  • Call your doctor immediately if you have suicidal thoughts about killing or hurting someone else.
  • Call your doctor immediately if you have psychotic symptoms, such as hearing voices, seeing thing that aren’t there, or feeling paranoid.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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