When the Blues Won’t Go Away
Depression is a serious medical condition that affects the body, mind and behavior. Depression can strike anyone regardless of age, ethnic background, socioeconomic status, or gender; symptoms of depression vary among individuals.
Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad, but these feelings usually pass within a couple of days. When a person has depression, it interferes with his or her daily life and routine, such as going to work or school, taking care of children, and relationships with family and friends. Depression causes pain for the person who has it and for those who care about him or her.
Depression can be very different in different people or in the same person over time. It is a common but serious illness. Treatment can help those with even the most severe depression get better.
Symptoms of Depression
Not everyone diagnosed with depression will have all of these symptoms. The signs and symptoms may be different in men, women, younger children and older adults.
- Ongoing sad, anxious or empty feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Feeling irritable or restless
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once enjoyable, including sex
- Feeling tired all the time
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or difficulty making decisions
- Not able to go to sleep or stay asleep (insomnia); may wake in the middle of the night, or sleep all the time
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Thoughts of suicide or making suicide attempts
- Ongoing aches and pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not go away.
Men and Depression
Research studies have found that depression affects twice as many women as men. However, research and clinical findings reveal that women and men may talk differently – or in the case of men, not talk – about the symptoms of depression.
Men may not recognize their irritability, sleep problems, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and withdrawal as signs of depression. This may result in fewer men recognizing their depression and asking for the help they need. Instead of acknowledging their feelings, asking for help, or seeking appropriate treatment, men with depression may be more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs, or to become frustrated, discouraged, angry or irritable. Some men may throw themselves compulsively into their work or hobbies, attempting to hide their depression from themselves, family, and friends; other men may respond to depression by engaging in reckless behavior.
Is There Help?
There is help for someone who has depression. Even in severe cases, depression is highly treatable. The first step is to visit a doctor. Your family doctor or a health clinic is a good place to start. A doctor can make sure that the symptoms of depression are not being caused by another medical condition. A doctor may refer you to a mental health professional. The most common treatments of depression are psychotherapy and medication.
Several types of psychotherapy-or “talk therapy”-can help people with depression. There are two main types of psychotherapy commonly used to treat depression: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). CBT teaches people to change negative styles of thinking and behaving that may contribute to their depression. IPT helps people understand and work through troubled personal relationships that may cause their depression or make it worse. There are several other kinds of psychotherapy that have also been proven to be effective in treating depression.
For mild to moderate depression, psychotherapy may be the best treatment option. However, for major depression or for certain people, psychotherapy may not be enough. For teens, a combination of medication and psychotherapy may work the best to treat major depression and help keep the depression from happening again. Also, a study about treating depression in older adults found that those who got better with medication and IPT were less likely to have depression again if they continued their combination treatment for at least two years.
Medications help balance chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Although scientists are not sure exactly how these chemicals work, they do know they affect a person’s mood. Types of antidepressant medications that help keep the neurotransmitters at the correct levels are: