What is Depression?
Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a mood disorder that affects how you feel, think, and perform daily activities.
Depression is common, affecting more than 16 million U.S. adults, or about 6.7 percent of the adult U.S. population in a given year.
A combination of factors may cause depression:
- Biology, including brain chemistry
- Past traumatic events
- Lack of social connection or support
Depression affects people in many different ways. Not only does it influence mood, but it may also interfere with daily life, such as sleep and appetite. Depression also can damage relationships or work performance.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
Depression is characterized by several key symptoms. However, not all individuals with depression show the same symptoms.
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiousness, emptiness, or hopelessness
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Loss of interest
- Fatigue, lack of energy
- Difficulty with concentration, memory, or decision-making
- Sleep difficulties, either not sleeping enough or too much
- Appetite or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Unexplained, persistent aches, pains, or digestive problems
How do I learn if I have depression?
Depression can be difficult to diagnose. A doctor or other healthcare provider needs to talk to you and hear about specific symptoms that concern you.
One key way to know if you have depression is if your symptoms persist for at least two weeks, most of the day, nearly every day. This is usually the best indication of depression.
What if my child or loved one shows symptoms that may be depression?
Depression affects people of all ages. Children with high levels of anxiety may be more likely to develop adult depression. Their depression may appear as irritability or emotional outbursts.
Like adults, children with depression may lose interest in normal activities. If your child persistently shows less enthusiasm for games, friendships, and other interests, this may indicate depression.
If your child shows depression symptoms, schedule an appointment with their pediatrician or other health provider. You may also want to make an appointment with a mental-health professional who specializes in treating children and adolescents.
If you think your loved one of any age has depression, there are ways you can help:
- Gently and privately talk to them about the symptoms that concern you.
- Emphasize that depression is a medical condition that can be treated, not a personal flaw or weakness.
- Suggest that your loved one seek professional help for their symptoms.
- Help your loved one contact a professional for help, such as a primary-care provider, licensed counselor, or psychologist.
- Be willing to accompany your loved one to appointments, or even family therapy if appropriate.
- Encourage them to practice good self-care, such as healthy eating, sufficient sleep, and physical activity.
- Be supportive and encouraging, reminding your loved one about their good qualities and listening to them without judgment if they need to talk.
- Keep an eye out for worsening depression symptoms or talk of suicide.
We also offer an online screening tool to help you learn more about your symptoms and if an evaluation is recommended.
What are the treatments for depression?
Just as depression has different causes and symptoms, there are also different treatments available. Sometimes you may have to try more than one type of treatment before finding the right one for you. Often people find relief from depression with a combination of treatments.
Your doctor or other healthcare provider can help determine the right anti-depressant for you. It may take several weeks to take effect. Never stop taking the drug suddenly or change the dosage without consulting your prescriber.
Therapy may involve one-on-one or group sessions. These sessions can help encourage more positive thinking, adjust to changes in life, and learn coping mechanisms.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
If you’ve tried two or more anti-depressants and still suffer from symptoms of major depression, you may want to explore new alternative treatments for these conditions. Covered by most insurance plans, TMS is a non-invasive, medication-free outpatient therapy. It is FDA-approved for depression. It is NOT shock therapy, but a magnetic stimulation technology which has been shown to be very effective.
Other types of therapy may support standard depression therapy and help regulate mood. This may include meditation, acupuncture, guided imagery, or art therapy.
With the right treatment approach, 70-80 percent of individuals with depression see a significant reduction in symptoms.