What causes depression?

Depression is not a sign that you are weak. Depression is a common, treatable and serious medical condition. Depression is usually the result of several factors, such as:

Stressful events such as job loss, financial strain, conflict in a relationship, death of a loved one. Stresses may be recent or may build gradually.

Family history depression is more common in people who have close relatives with depression.

Medical conditions such as pain, chronic disease, loss of function, or other illness can lead to depression, as can hormonal changes, such as during menstrual cycles, post-partum, and menopause.

How is depression evaluated?

Your doctor may ask you to complete a screening questionnaire. He or she may ask questions to check for medical illness, family history, use of alcohol or other substances, and other concerns.

What are the signs of depression?

If you have felt many of these symptoms nearly every day for two weeks or longer, you may have clinical depression:

  • Depressed mood: feeling sad, tearful, irritable, or easily angered
  • Little interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Increase or decrease in appetite or weight
  • Sleeping much more or much less than usual
  • Restlessness or decreased activity
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Persistent negative thoughts

Sometimes depression can manifest as anxiety, with symptoms such as:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tense feelings
  • Preoccupation with unpleasant or irrational worries
  • Fear that something awful might happen

How is depression treated?

Some or all of the following steps may be appropriate, depending on the severity of your depression.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes are recommended for all people with depression, including:

  • Spend time with friends and loved ones
  • Set a routine sleep pattern
  • Healthy eating
  • Make time for pleasurable activities
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid alcohol and other “recreational” drugs

Regular meetings with doctors and psychotherapist

  • Seeing your primary care doctor regularly: this plus lifestyle changes may life mild depression
  • Meeting with a therapist for a “talk” therapy regularly
  • Meeting with psychiatrist for medication management if necessary

Antidepressant medication

Please discuss with your provider the risk and benefits of medication, how to take and adjust doses and manage side effects. Regular follow up visits with your provider are important.

Involve family and close friends

Support and encouragement of loved ones can be very helpful.

If you feel severely depressed or have persistent thoughts of death or harming yourself, please seek help immediately. Call your provider promptly. For urgent needs, call 911.

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