Key Points about Depression
- Depression is a mental disorder marked by a persistent depressed mood, sadness, or a loss of interest in normal activities that impacts functioning in daily life.
- Other symptoms of depression include changes in appetite, sleep problems, feeling tearful or irritable, and impaired mental function.
- Depression can arise from stressful or abusive situations in your life, from certain medications and illnesses, or may appear out-of-the-blue for no identifiable reason.
- Call your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of depression.
- If you are thinking of hurting yourself or are considering suicide, call 911 immediately.
Depression is a mental disorder in which one experiences a persistent depressed mood, sadness, or a loss of interest in normal activities that impacts functioning in daily life. It can arise from stressful situations in your life, from certain medications and illnesses, or may appear out-of-the-blue for no identifiable reason.
Depression can negatively impact your work, relationships and physical health and safety. Call your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of depression. If you are thinking of hurting yourself or are considering suicide, call 911 immediately.
While the precise cause of depression is not known, factors that may play a role include:
- Biological and brain chemistry differences
- Hormone imbalances
Depression can be triggered by stressful or abusive situations in your life, by certain medications and illnesses, or may appear out-of-the-blue for no identifiable reason.
Depression risk factors
You may be more likely to experience depression if you:
- Have low self-esteem or are very pessimistic
- Have experienced trauma or stressful events
- Have a family history of depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental health conditions
- Abuse drugs or alcohol
- Have a chronic illness such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes
- Are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and do not have a strong support system
- Are taking certain medications that can cause symptoms of depression
Symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling hopeful, sad, tearful or empty
- Irritability, frustration, and outbursts of anger
- Losing interests in activities that once brought you pleasure
- Sleep problems, such as trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Low energy levels that make it challenging to complete even small tasks
- Appetite changes such as increased cravings or decreased appetite, leading to weight gain or weight loss
- Anxiety or agitation
- Impaired or slowed thinking, or “brain fog”
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Struggling with concentration, making decisions, and remembering details
- Thinking about suicide, or attempting suicide
- Physical aches and pains
Depression and its symptoms can have a significant impact on your life, and can negatively affect your relationships, your work, and your safety.
Depression can lead to complications such as:
- Physical pain
- Anxiety disorders
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Weight gain
- Family and relationship conflicts
- Social isolation
- An increased risk of premature death from chronic illnesses
When diagnosing depression, your clinician may perform:
- A physical examination to assess whether a physical health condition may be causing your symptoms
- Lab tests to check thyroid function or blood count
- A psychiatric evaluation in which your provider asks questions about your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and other symptoms
Psychotherapy and medications are the most common and effective treatments for depression. Your provider may recommend one or the other, or both.
Your provider may recommend and prescribe medications such as:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Atypical antidepressants
- Tricyclic antidepressants.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
If you are suffering from severe depression, your doctor may recommend you for a hospital stay, or may refer you to an outpatient treatment program.
When to seek care
Call your provider if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, as early treatment can be more effective.
If you are thinking of hurting yourself or are considering suicide, call 911 immediately.
Long-term treatment of depression may involve switching medications that are not effective, trying different behavioral interventions and therapies, and maintaining habits that promote your overall health and well-being. It is important to see your provider regularly when receiving treatment for depression.