Seasonal Depression Symptoms, What Is Depression?
Q: Depression is a common illness that can affect anyone. About one in 20
Americans -- more than 11 million people -- suffers from depression
every year. The condition is found twice as often in women as in men.
Depression is a medical problem that can be treated. This pamphlet
What Is Depression?
A:Depression is a medical disorder, like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. It is more than feeling sad for a short time or feeling grief after a loss. These feelings are hard to deal with, but they get better with time. Depression disrupts your daily life. It affects your thoughts, feelings, behavior and physical health. It is not a weakness or a fault. Depression has many causes. The chemicals in the brain may not be balanced. A family history of depression may mean that you are more likely to have depression. Other illnesses may trigger it. About 10 percent to 15 percent of all depressions are triggered by other medical conditions (such as thyroid disease, cancer or neurologic problems) or by medications. The use of drugs or alcohol can also cause depression. In some people, depression can occur even though life is going well. In others, conditions such as extreme stress or grief may bring on depression. Stresses may include: Trying to raise children and work outside the home Trying to balance tasks at work and home Having a stressful job Being a single parent Having money problems You may think you are depressed if you are under a lot of stress or if you have had a loss. Such feelings are often linked to a situation -- that is, when the situation gets better, you feel better. For women, these feelings may occur around the time of certain reproductive events, such as menstruation, pregnancy, loss of a baby, birth of a baby (postpartum blues or postpartum depression), infertility or menopause. These feelings are normal. Many do not need treatment. Depression linked to a situation can sometimes trigger true depression, though. If the feelings don't go away, they should be treated. If psychotherapy does not work, another kind of treatment may be needed. Psychotherapy often is coupled with antidepressant medication to treat severe depression or bipolar disorder. Antidepressants Plus Psychotherapy Medication plus psychotherapy relieves the symptoms of depression in more than half of patients. It may take a couple of months for the treatment to work. This combined treatment may work best for long-term depression, for people with symptoms between episodes, or for people who do not respond fully to edicine or psychotherapy alone.