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While everybody feels sad or blue every once in a while, many people suffer from an actual medical condition, known as depression, that affects their lives on a daily basis. Depression is characterized by constant feelings of sadness or emptiness, and may be triggered by certain events or co-exist with other illnesses.


Causes of Depression

The exact causes of depressions are unknown. Research suggests that depression is caused by a wide range of factors, such as:

  • Stressful life events

  • Hormonal changes

  • Heredity

  • Traumatic childhood

  • Changes within the brain

Depression is a serious condition that can vastly affect individuals and their families. Leaving depression untreated can cause a variety of problems affecting the lives of those suffering, as well as their families. Some of these issues include anxiety, isolation, difficulties at work or school, alcohol or substance abuse, and in extreme cases, suicide. It is therefore important to talk with your doctor if you are suffering from depression to receive the treatment you need and live a healthy, fulfilling life.


Symptoms of Depression

There are several different depressive disorders, but major depressive disorder is the most common. Symptoms of major depression include:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless

  • Loss of interest in normal activities

  • Crying spells

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Irritability

  • Fatigue

  • Aches and pains

  • Suicidal thoughts


Diagnosing Depression:

To diagnose depression, your doctor will ask numerous questions regarding changes in mood and recent life events, such as graduating or getting a new job. To rule out medical conditions that may be causing your depression, he or she may perform a full range of tests, including a physical examination and blood test. To be diagnosed with depression, an individual must have at least five of the following symptoms continuously over a two-week period:

  • Depressed mood for the majority of the day; for instance, feeling empty, sad, or tearful

  • Loss of pleasure in all or nearly all daily activities

  • Inability to fall asleep or increased desire to sleep every day

  • Difficulty making decisions

  • Feelings of guilt or low self-worth

  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or an attempt of suicide


Treatment for Depression:

Depression is typically treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Antidepressants alter your brain chemistry to improve your mood; commonly prescribed antidepressants include SSRIs, NDRIs, SNRIs and tricyclic antidepressants. Your doctor will determine which antidepressant is best for you based on your individual condition.

Psychotherapy, also known as therapy or counseling, aims to treat depression by discussing your condition with a mental health specialist. Psychotherapy sessions help you learn the causes of your depression and find coping strategies for unhealthy thoughts and/or actions.


Preventing Depression:

There is no surefire way to prevent depression; however, there are certain measures that have been proven to reduce the occurrence of depression. These include following your treatment plan, learning about your condition, sleeping enough, exercising regularly, and having a strong support group of friends and/or family.

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