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depression man holding headWhat is Depression?

Depression is characterized as a mental state of feelings of hopelessness, sadness, loneliness, helplessness and low-self esteem. Depression may cause symptoms of insomnia (trouble sleeping), avoiding others, negative thoughts or emotions, and decrease in appetite. Severe depression may lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior or self-harm.

There are several types of depression such as:

  • major depressive disorder which may inhibit one from performing daily activities or functions
  • seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which occurs in the colder months as darkness is more prevalent, and generally goes away during warmer seasons
  • bipolar disorder (characterized by major mood swings and extreme highs and lows) also referred to as manic-depression
  • dysthymia (dysthymic disorder), a minor form of depression which may last years
  • psychotic depression, a severe depression with symptoms of being delusional, hallucinating and becoming psychotic
  • postnatal depression (occurs after a woman has given birth)

The causes of depression are unknown. However, depression is believed to be associated with the function and activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. Depression may often be caused by environmental factors, traumatic experiences, or genetics. Certain medicines can also cause depression, this includes oral contraceptives, statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs), medications for high blood pressure and acne treatments (specifically Accutane).

How is Depression Treated?

Depression is a serious medical condition that requires attention from doctors. Persons with depression should have their condition evaluated to ensure their safety. Treatments vary among patients, but most cases may be alleviated through the use of antidepressant medicines called selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) which are thought to balance activity in the brain and stabilize mood. Healthcare providers also may recommend psychotherapy to correct negative thoughts and behavior, or resolving other situational causes of depression.