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Depression Depression and Mood Disorders

Stressful life events, like the death of a spouse or a serious illness or disability, can make life difficult. Often, people find ways to get through these periods. But sometimes a loss or difficult change can lead to depression, a medical condition that can affect both mental and physical health.

More than 17 million Americans have depression. In some, it's triggered by a stressful life event. In others, it seems to occur spontaneously, and a cause can't easily be identified.

Whatever the trigger, depression is much more than grieving or a bout or "the blues." It's a serious illness that can take a terrible toll on individuals and families. Untreated, depression can lead to a downward spiral of disability, dependency and suicide. Up to 70 percent of people who commit suicide may have some form of depression.

Fortunately in the past decade, there's been dramatic progress in the treatment of depression. New medications are available that are generally safe and effective, even for the most severe depression. With proper treatment, most people with serious depression improve, often within weeks, and can return to their normal daily activities.

Depression is a brain disorder that affects your thoughts, mods, feelings, behavior and physical health. People used to think it was "all in your head." If you really tried, you could "pull yourself out of it." But now doctors know that depression is not a weakness, and you can't treat it on your own. It's a medical disorder that has a biological basis.

About a third of people with depression don't know they have it. And two-thirds don't seek treatment.

The reasons are numerous:

--Lack of Recognition

--Embarrassment and Confidentiality

--Concern about Employer Confidentiality

--Insurance Coverage

-- Effects of Depression

TYPES OF DEPRESSION:

Major depression is characterized by a mood disturbance lasting more than two weeks. Symptoms include overwhelming feeling of sadness and grief and loss of interest or pleasure in activities you usually enjoy.

Dysthymia is a less severe but more continuous form of depression. It lasts for at least 2 years and often more than 5 years.

Bipolar Disorder is the condition which involves emotions at both extremes or poles.

Mania affects your judgment and can cause problems, such as spending money recklessly or making unwise decisions.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a pattern of major depression related to changes in seasons. No one knows what causes SAD, but scientists think that reduced levels of sunlight may increase the level of melatonin in your brain.

CAUSES OF DEPRESSION:

There's no single cause for depression. Experts think a genetic vulnerability (depression often runs in families), combined with environmental factors, such as stress or physical illness, may trigger a neurotransmitter imbalance that results in depression.

Here are some causes of depression:

An inherited vulnerability--Having a family history of depression increases your risk of developing the condition.

Environmental triggers-- Stressful life events, particularly a loss or threatened loss, can trigger depression.

Medications--Long-term use of certain medications may cause symptoms of depression in some people.

Illnesses--People with chronic illness, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's disease, are at high risk for developing depression.

Personality--Certain personality traits, such as laving low self-esteem and being overly dependent, self-critical, pessimistic and easily overwhelmed by stress, can make you more vulnerable to depression.

Alcohol, nicotine and drug abuse--In the past, experts thought that people with depression used alcohol, nicotine and mood-altering drugs as a way to ease depression. But new studies show that using these substances may actually contribute to depression and anxiety disorders.

Diet-- Deficiencies in folate and vitamin B-12 may cause symptoms of depression.

DIAGNOSING DEPRESSION:

To diagnose depression, your doctor may perform a physical examination, including tests to rule out conditions than can cause symptoms that mimic depression. There are two hallmarks or depression — symptoms that usually confirm the diagnosis are:

Loss of interest in normal daily activities.

Depressed mood.

Sleep Disturbances.

Significant weight loss or gain.

Agitation or slowing of body movements.

Fatigue.

Low self- esteem.

Thoughts of death.

Impaired thinking or concentration.

Loss of libido.

Changes in mood.

Changes in behavior.

Medication can relieve symptoms in most people with depression, and it's become the first line of treatment for most types of depression.

Treatment may also include psychotherapy, which may help you cope with ongoing problems that may trigger or contribute to depression. A combination or medications and a brief course of psychotherapy is usually effective for people with mild to moderate depression. Psychotherapy is usually not effective is severe depression.

TYPES OF TREATMENTS FOR DEPRESSION:

--Medications

-- Psychotherapy

--Electroconvulsive therapy

--Therapy for seasonal affective disorder


You don't need to shoulder the heavy weight of depression alone. New medications are generally safe and effective, even for people with severe depression. With proper treatment, you'll usually begin to feel better and get back to your normal activities within a few weeks. And continued therapy can help prevent recurring bouts of depression.

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