Depression is a common and serious mental health disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. It can cause a range of symptoms, including persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. Depression can interfere with a person’s daily life and functioning, and can have serious consequences if left untreated.
There are several types of depression, including:
- Major depression: characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable for at least two weeks
- Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia): characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable for at least two years
- Bipolar disorder: characterized by extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression)
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year, usually in the fall or winter, when there is less natural sunlight
Symptoms of depression may include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness
- Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Change in appetite and weight
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Thoughts of death or suicide
The exact cause of depression is not fully understood, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. People with a family history of depression may be more at risk of developing the disorder, and certain life events, such as a major life change or trauma, may also increase the risk. Depression may also be linked to certain medical conditions, such as an underactive thyroid gland or a vitamin deficiency.
Depression is typically diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, based on a review of the person’s symptoms, medical history, and family history. The diagnosis may also involve a physical examination and laboratory tests to rule out other medical conditions that may cause similar symptoms.
Treatment for depression typically involves a combination of medications and therapy. Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of depression. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy (IPT), may also be helpful in managing the condition. Other treatments may include lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet, and support from friends and family.
Living with depression can be challenging, but with appropriate treatment and support, people with the disorder can lead fulfilling and productive lives. It is important for people with depression to seek help and support from their healthcare team, and to seek support from friends, family, and community resources as needed.