Depression is a condition in which you feel sad, hopeless, and uninterested in daily life. Several medical problems can cause depression. It is not that you are just upset at having a medical problem, but that the medical problem physically causes depression.
The brain is made up of billions of neurons (cells) that communicate with each other. This affects other parts of the body. Neurotransmitters are chemical substances in the brain. The kinds and amounts of these substances control how neurons communicate. Too little or too much of these chemicals can cause mood problems. Many medical problems upset the balance of neurotransmitters in your body, such as:
Certain medicines can cause or worsen depression:
In addition to medical conditions that physically cause depression, you may also become depressed about being ill. Illness reduces your energy, sense of well-being, and social activities.
Besides feeling somewhat sad and uninterested in things, you may also:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and any drug or alcohol use. You will be asked about the medicines and supplements you take. You may be asked to have some lab tests to pinpoint other medical problems.
Sometimes treating the medical problem helps depression. For example, treating thyroid illness may treat depressive symptoms. But sometimes depression is still a problem after the illness has been effectively treated. Sometimes treating depression helps to treat medical symptoms. For example, some medicines used to treat depression help migraines.
Do not try to overcome depression by yourself. Depression can be successfully treated with either psychotherapy, medicine, or both. Discuss this with your healthcare provider or therapist.
Several types of medicines can help treat depression. Your healthcare provider will work with you to carefully select the best one for you. Before you take any medicine for depression, check with your healthcare provider to make sure it will not interact with the medicines you are taking for your physical condition.
You must take antidepressant medicines daily for 3 to 6 weeks to get full benefit from them. Most people benefit from taking these medicines for at least 6 months.
Seeing a mental health therapist can help with all forms of depression. Therapy may last a short time or may need to go on for many months. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a way to help you identify and change thought processes that lead to depression. Replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones can help you with depression.
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are recommended for people with depression. A multivitamin and mineral supplement may also be recommended.
Claims have been made that certain herbal and dietary products help control depression symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce symptoms of depression. St. John's wort may help mild symptoms of depression. It will not help severe cases of depression. No herb or dietary supplement has been proven to consistently or completely relieve depression. Supplements are not tested or standardized and may vary in strengths and effects. They may have side effects and are not always safe.
Learning ways to relax may help. Yoga and meditation may also be helpful. You may want to talk with your healthcare provider about using these methods along with medicines and psychotherapy.
As your physical condition improves, your depression will usually improve. However, if your health remains poor, depression can continue. For this reason, you should seek professional help. The treatments listed above most often will help you to overcome depression or at least reduce it.
If you are being treated for depression, check with your healthcare provider before taking any new prescription or nonprescription medicines.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial. To help prevent depression:
Seek professional help if you believe that you or a loved one have the symptoms described here.
Get emergency help immediately if you or a loved one have serious thoughts of suicide or harming others.