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Help With Depression

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

See more on symptoms & treatment

  • Oct 15, 2021
Treating Sleep Problems May Help Prevent Depression

Sleep problems and depression are closely interconnected and have a bidirectional relationship. Depression can make sleep problems worse and troubled sleep can worsen depression symptoms. In the October issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry, authors David T. Plante, M.D., Ph.D., with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, suggests that there is important “opportunity to prevent depressive episodes using evidence-based treatments for insomnia.” Plante highlights several factors contributing to the potential for broad public health impact. 

  • Sep 30, 2021
AJ Klein, Linebacker for the Buffalo Bills, Talks Mental Health and the NFL

Austin Kayser, a 4th year medical student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health had the opportunity to sit down and talk with NFL linebacker AJ Klein of the Buffalo Bills. They talked about mental health in the NFL, stigma, recent high-profile cases of athletes sitting out for mental health reasons, and the value of therapy, among other topics.

  • Jul 15, 2021
Addressing Loneliness in Older Adults through Empathetic Conversations, Health and Fitness Classes

The COVID-19 pandemic and social-distancing focused much attention on impacts of social isolation particularly for older adults, but even before the pandemic, loneliness had been increasingly of concern. Researchers are looking at the relationship between social disconnectedness and mental illness, effective interventions and prevention.

What is the difference between normal sadness or grieving and depression?

Everyone experiences a range of emotions over the course of days and weeks, typically varying based on events and circumstances. When disappointed, we usually feel sad. When we suffer a loss, we grieve. Normally these feelings ebb and flow. They respond to input and changes. By contrast, depression tends to feel heavy and constant. People who are depressed are less likely to be cheered, comforted or consoled. People who recover from depression often welcome the ability to feel normal sadness again, to have a “bad day,” as opposed to a leaden weight on their minds and souls every single day. More

Once a person has been diagnosed and treated for depression, is it likely to return?

Of people diagnosed with major depressive disorder, who are treated and recover, at least half are likely to experience a recurrent episode sometime in their future. It may come soon after or not for many years. It may or may not be triggered by a life event. After several episodes of major depression, a psychiatrist may suggest long-term treatment. More

What kinds of treatments work for depression?

A wide variety of treatments have been proven effective in treating depression. Some involve talking and behavioral change. Others involve taking medications. There are also techniques that focus on neuromodulation, which incorporates electrical, magnetic or other forms of energy to stimulate brain pathways. Examples of neuromodulation include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), vagus-nerve stimulation (VNS), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and the experimental deep-brain stimulation (DBS).

The choice of therapy should be guided by the nature and severity of depression, past responses to treatment, and the patient’s and family’s beliefs and preferences. Whatever approach is selected, the patient should be a willing and active participant, engaging in psychotherapy or regularly taking the medication, for example. More

What do I need to tell my doctor when discussing my feelings of depression?

Total openness is important. You should talk to your doctor about all of your symptoms, important milestones in your life and any history of abuse or trauma. Also tell your doctor about past history of depression or other emotional symptoms in yourself or family members, medical history, medications you are taking — prescribed or over-the-counter, how depression has affected your daily life and whether you ever think about suicide. More

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About the Expert:

Alan Gelenberg, M.D.
Professor Emeritus, University of Arizona
Distinguished Life Fellow, APA

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Editor's Choice

MAY 21 2021

Holistic Approaches for Seasonal Affective Disorder
NBC News

The new Lamar Odom documentary, "Reborn," explores controversial ketamine therapy after the NBA star credited the medication for turning his life around. Ketamine therapy carries a similar stigma. When most people think of ketamine, they envision the party drug popular in the '90s and the early '00s. How can a psychedelic party drug be a useful tool in a psychiatrist's pharmacological arsenal? Is this a joke? For many, absolutely not. When administered under a medical professional's care, it can be a lifesaving medication.

MAY 5 2021

Major Depressive Dissorders Have Enormous Economic Impact
Scientific American

Their prevalence has more than tripled during the pandemic, but the trends were already troubling long before it arrived. We report our latest estimates showing that the incremental economic burden of adults with MDD was $326 billion in 2018, 38 percent higher than in 2010. But our work goes deeper than simply providing an economic calculator. This research offers a multifaceted lens through which we can gain a better understanding of how the myriad effects of the illness manifest themselves.

MAY 5 2021

Health Behavior Changes and Major Depressive Disorder in COVID-19 Pandemic


Psychiatry Advisor

Changes in physical activity, marijuana use, and sleep quality were associated with current MDD during the pandemic. A recent sample of adults in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic showed that the prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD) was high among individuals with no prior history of depression. The study investigators concluded, “The prevalence of MDD was high among those with no prior history of depressive disorders in a sample of US adults. Changes in physical activity, marijuana use, and sleep quality were associated with current MDD during the pandemic.

Resources

Additional Resources and Organizations

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Mental Health America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Institute on Mental Health

Physician Reviewed

Felix Torres, MD, MBA, DFAPA
August 2020