Symptoms and Causes of Depression
Depression is a mental health disorder that causes you to feel sad, hopeless and worthless. It isn’t a normal part of life, but it can be treated and you should talk to a doctor about getting help if you think you are depressed.
Symptoms of depression vary from person to person, but they generally include feelings of sadness, irritability, fatigue, weight gain or loss, and thoughts of death or suicide. You may also experience changes in your appetite, sleep patterns or energy level.
You might have problems concentrating, making decisions or thinking clearly. These symptoms can be very severe and interfere with your ability to work, study, sleep or enjoy your usual activities.
Other common signs of depression are a change in how you handle money or social situations and a feeling of worthlessness. Those symptoms can last for weeks, months or even years.
Some people with depression also have physical symptoms, like joint pain, back pain, digestive problems and sleep troubles. These symptoms can also be a sign of depression and usually improve when you take antidepressant medication.
The causes of depression are not clear, but it is believed to be a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Genetics, traumatic experiences and a history of stress and violence can all increase your risk of developing depression.
Biochemistry: Differences in certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, can cause depression. Other factors that can put you at an increased risk of depression include family history, gender, trauma or a medical condition such as chronic illness or pain, insomnia or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Lifestyle: Being overly anxious, feeling isolated and having poor self-esteem are other factors that increase your chances of developing depression. If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, you can also be at an increased risk for depression.
Relationships and family background: A close relationship with someone who has a mental health disorder or has experienced a significant traumatic event is also linked to depression. This is especially true if you had a parent or sibling who suffered from depression.
Trauma: Having been through a major life crisis, such as the death of a loved one, divorce or loss of a job can trigger depression. Other circumstances that can increase your risk of depression include prolonged exposure to negative or traumatic events, such as abuse, violence and neglect.
Treatment options for depression can be a combination of medications, therapy and lifestyle changes. Medication can help change the way your brain works so you feel better. Psychotherapy can help you learn to identify unhealthy thoughts and behaviors and make healthy choices.
Other methods of treatment include using non-medication therapies, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). These methods send pulses of electricity to a part of your brain that helps you regulate your mood.
Other psychiatric therapies that you can get in a hospital or residential facility are electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and talk therapy. ECT uses electric currents to stimulate your brain’s neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. This method is most often used if you haven’t found relief with other treatments.