What is Depression?

Depression is an illness caused by problems with the chemicals in your brain. This chemical imbalance affects how you feel, think, and act. So it’s wrong to see depression as a weakness or character flaw. Research has shown that it’s a medical illness just like diabetes or high blood pressure. A score of 10 or more on the PHQ-9 means you may have depression and should get checked by a doctor.

There’s a lot of variety in how people experience depression. It can be mild or severe. You might have it only once in your lifetime, have several episodes over time, or have ongoing depression. Your symptoms may differ from those of other people with depression.

Despite its various patterns, you should always take depression seriously. Untreated, depression can make it hard to be a good spouse, friend, or parent. It can hurt you at work and prevent you from taking care of yourself. It can prompt you to pull back from the world—and may even lead to suicide.

The good news? Depression can be treated. Most people CAN recover and lead full, productive lives.

What Are The Symptoms of Depression?

If you have depression, you’ll probably experience several of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling down, hopeless, irritable, or out of sorts
  • Taking little interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
  • Feeling tired or having little energy
  • A poor appetite or overeating
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Wanting to be alone more
  • Moving or speaking so slowly that other people may notice, or feeling so restless
  • that you move around a lot more than usual
  • Feeling bad about yourself—thinking you’re a failure or that you’ve let yourself or others down

These symptoms may make it difficult for you to do your work or take care of things at home. You may have trouble getting along with others. In the worst cases, your symptoms may lead you to have thoughts of hurting yourself, or even think that you’d be better off dead.

What Brings on Depression?

We know depression is caused by changes in brain chemistry. But we DON’T know what triggers these changes in the first place. Still, studies do show that several factors seem to make a person more likely to develop depression:

  • A family history of depression
  • An unhappy event, such as a death or divorce
  • Certain personality traits or patterns of thinking
  • Long-term use of some medications or alcohol or drug abuse

While these factors may raise your chance of depression, depression also happens to people who have none of them and “no reason” to feel down. The onset of depression is highly individual and often unpredictable.

Thoughts of Suicide

Depression symptoms can lead a person to think of ending it all. Tese thoughts are dangerous, and can put you and your family at risk. If you have thoughts like these while you are being treated for depression, be sure to contact your doctor right away. Effective treatment can help you see the value of life clearly again.

How is Depression Treated?

You have several options for treatment. Based on your condition and preferences, your doctor will work with you to create a treatment plan that meets your needs. It may include counseling, medication, care management, or a combination of the three.

There are also some basic steps you can take to manage your condition and feel better. These include regular exercise, a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and others.

It can take some time and several visits to fnd the right treatments for your situation and symptoms, but it’s worth the effort to feel better.

Links to community treatment resources and suicide prevention hotlines: