Depression is a common but potentially debilitating mental illness. Over ten million people in the United States live with this condition, and being diagnosed with depression can be a scary and daunting experience. Understanding both what depression looks like and how to treat it can minimize your suffering and improve your quality of life.

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Depression Symptoms

There are a number of symptoms of depression that may help to differentiate it from simply feeling sad or down. People may have all or only some of these symptoms. Note that symptoms manifest differently depending on the individual.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you may have some form of depression, and should consult your doctor.

  • Sleep Disturbances: Living with depression can make getting a restful night's sleep difficult. You might find yourself sleeping more than usual (e.g. from eight hours a sleep to fifteen hours a day or more), or having disturbances in sleep (e.g. waking up multiple times throughout the night or insomnia).
  • Appetite and Relationship with Food: If you are depressed, you may find that you have little to no interest in food and/or eating. Emotional distress or feelings of emptiness can also prompt overeating. This can cause severe weight loss or gain.
  • Changes in self-esteem and thought patterns: Feelings of unworthiness, guilt for being depressed, apathy for life in general, and lack of joy are recurrent themes for those suffering with depression.
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide: If you are suffering from depression, you may commit acts of self harm, experience thoughts of suicide, or have attempted suicide.

Depression Causes

There is a vast variety of factors that can trigger depression, and both major and minor life changes or stressors can trigger depression. If you have depression, is important to know that you cannot be blamed for your depression, and that it is a legitimate illness. And, just like any other illness, treatment can greatly help to improve your quality of life.

Common Causes of Depression

  • The sudden death of a family member or friend, the end of a marriage, struggling with college coursework, getting fired-all of these situations, and more, can trigger depression.
  • Also, depression can be triggered due to genetic reasons, and oftentimes is found to run in families.

Depression Diagnosis

Depression is usually diagnosed by a series of evaluations performed by a doctor, who will examine the patient's various symptoms and signs.

  • A psychiatrist will have a patient explain their personal history, feelings, and their relationships with loved ones.
  • Also, they will ask the patient many questions about their depression, feelings of apathy or sadness or their sleeping and eating habits.
  • Once the doctor has acquired enough information, the patient's criteria will be assessed thoroughly to determine if they have clinical depression.

Depression Treatment

Depression can affect anyone, and if you suffer from depression, it is important to get treatment immediately.

Treatment usually comes in the form of medications or various types of therapy. Utilizing more than one method, may lead to significant improvement and alleviation of your depressive symptoms. However, it is important to remember that depression affects everyone differently, and treatment will differ between individuals as well.

Additionally, surrounding yourself with friends and family who are supportive and nonjudgmental is instrumental in creating a positive environment for yourself and a step towards healing.


  • There are 3 different types of medication used to treat depression: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), and Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs).
  • These medications target different parts of the brain and need a few weeks to work.
  • Also, medication options must be tailored to your needs.
  • All medications have risks and benefits you must consider. Primary care providers, such as family doctors, nurse practitioners, and psychiatrists can evaluate you, and decide which medications to prescribe.

Mental Health Counseling

  • There are many therapeutic approaches towards depression. In particular, cognitive_ behavioral therapy can teach you new ways to combat negative thinking and discuss interpersonal issues that triggered, or continue to exacerbate depressive symptoms.
  • Also, you may benefit from psychodynamic therapy, which is held 2_3 times a week. Psychodynamic therapy explores your background and is a more intensive form of follow _up or counseling.
  • Group therapy can give you the opportunity to hear from others living with depression. This can offer you more support, thereby normalizing your experiences.
  • Lastly, counseling can be provided by psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed mental health counselors, and art therapists.

Main Depression Drugs

Cymbalta Lexapro Zoloft

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