Major depression is a common, treatable, and serious condition that can have effects on how you feel and act. Every year, about 1 in every 10 adults will be affected, with women being twice as likely to suffer a major depressive episode as men. Depression is not merely ‘having a bad day’ or transient sadness, but an extended period when you may experience:
- Very low mood
- Increase or decrease in sleep
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Feeling excessively guilty or worthless
- Less interest or enjoyment in things you used to enjoy
- Decreased energy
- Poor concentration
- Decreased interest in sex/libido
- Suicidal thoughts
In depression, these symptoms can affect your ability to function at work, in home life, and in your relationships. Many factors play a role in whether or not someone may become depressed, including: genetic predisposition (if a close relative was depressed, you may be at increased risk), environmental factors, lower levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, and difficult or traumatic life events. Because some symptoms of depression can occur in some medical illnesses (such as thyroid disease or anemia), as a psychiatrist, I will often want to order studies to ensure these are not contributing to your condition.
The good news is that depression is a very treatable condition, and many different treatments options are available. There are different types of psychotherapy and medications that have proven to be effective. Regarding psychotherapy, depending on the issues and problems that you are struggling with as part of your depression, therapy might focus on negative thoughts you are having about yourself, building self-esteem, understanding and reasons you might be depressed and how to manage them, or the effects of past experiences on your current life. Sometimes, it can be helpful to involve family members or loved ones in your psychotherapy, but only, of course, with your consent.
Increasing aerobic activity, maintaining a journal, building and maintaining social connections, and ensuring a healthy diet can sometimes be helpful, as well. Often, a combination of several different treatment modalities is most helpful, especially for more severe cases of depression.
For more information about depression or other mental health issues, please see the American Psychiatric Association’s Let’s Talk Facts.