Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are
usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have
depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you
and those who care about you.
Depression is a common but serious
Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But
the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get
better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods
can effectively treat people with depression.
What are the different forms of depression?
There are several forms of depressive disorders.
- severe symptoms that
interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life.
An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a
person has several episodes.
Depression is a common but serious illness. Most who experience depression need treatment to get better.
Persistent depressive disorder
mood that lasts for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with persistent
depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with
periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for 2 years.
Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances. They include:
- Psychotic depression,
which occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of
psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with
reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others
cannot hear or see (hallucinations).
- Postpartum depression,
which is much more serious than the "baby blues" that many women
experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and
the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It
is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum
depression after giving birth.1
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD),
which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter
months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally
lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with
light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with
light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can
reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.2
, also called manic-depressive
illness, is not as common as major depression or persistent depressive
disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes—from
extreme highs (e.g., mania) to extreme lows (e.g., depression). More
information about bipolar disorder
What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
People with depressive illnesses do not all experience the same
symptoms. The severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms vary
depending on the individual and his or her particular illness.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
I started missing days from work, and a friend noticed that
something wasn't right. She talked to me about the time she had been
really depressed and had gotten help from her doctor.
What illnesses often co-exist with depression?
Other illnesses may come on before depression, cause it, or be a
consequence of it. But depression and other illnesses interact
differently in different people. In any case, co-occurring illnesses
need to be diagnosed and treated.
Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia,
and generalized anxiety disorder, often accompany depression.3,4
PTSD can occur after a person experiences a terrifying event or ordeal,
such as a violent assault, a natural disaster, an accident, terrorism
or military combat. People experiencing PTSD are especially prone to
having co-existing depression.
In a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-funded study,
researchers found that more than 40 percent of people with PTSD also had
depression 4 months after the traumatic event.5
Alcohol and other substance abuse or dependence may also
co-exist with depression. Research shows that mood disorders and
substance abuse commonly occur together.6
Depression also may occur with other serious medical illnesses
such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and
Parkinson's disease. People who have depression along with another
medical illness tend to have more severe symptoms of both depression and
the medical illness, more difficulty adapting to their medical
condition, and more medical costs than those who do not have co-existing
Treating the depression can also help improve the outcome of treating the co-occurring illness.8
What causes depression?
Most likely, depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
Depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. Longstanding
theories about depression suggest that important
neurotransmitters—chemicals that brain cells use to communicate—are out
of balance in depression. But it has been difficult to prove this.
Brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI), have shown that the brains of people who have depression look
different than those of people without depression. The parts of the
brain involved in mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior appear
different. But these images do not reveal why the depression has
occurred. They also cannot be used to diagnose depression.
Some types of depression tend to run in families. However,
depression can occur in people without family histories of depression
Scientists are studying certain genes that may make
some people more prone to depression. Some genetics research indicates
that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes
acting together with environmental or other factors.10
addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any
stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive
episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.
Research indicates that depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain.
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*Information provided by http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml