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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

  • Feb 26, 2021
City Living and Mental Well-being

 More than half the world’s population lives in cities, and the number is expected to continue to increase in the coming decades. Living in urban areas has been associated with increased risk for mental disorders, including anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. Research using functional magnetic resonance imaging has identified changes in the brain indicating that urban upbringing and city living are linked to social stress processing.

  • Jan 14, 2021
How Endometriosis, a Common, Painful Condition Many Women Face, Can Impact Mental Health

Endometriosis is a common, often painful condition in which the type of tissue that forms the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) is found outside the uterus. The most common symptom of endometriosis is chronic pelvic pain, especially just before and during the menstrual period. Endometriosis is also associated with mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, and a reduced quality of life.

  • Dec 29, 2020
Women, Disasters and Resilience

Do women experience disasters, including planning, preparedness, response and recovery, differently than men? That is the question examined in a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report looks at the long-held notion in disaster behavioral health research that “women are more vulnerable to adverse mental health consequences of disaster than are men.”  

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

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Learn about Seasonal Affective Disorder, including symptoms, risk factors and treatment options.

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Trish’s Story

Trish was a 51-year-old woman who was brought to the emergency room by her husband. She said, “I feel like killing myself.” She had lost her interest in life about four months before. During that time, she reported depression every day for most of the day. Symptoms had been getting worse for months.

Read More 

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Editor's Choice

JAN 5 2021

Holistic Approaches for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Psychology Today

If you’re struggling with SAD, know that you’re not alone. Millions of American adults may suffer from SAD, with many remaining undiagnosed and untreated (NIMH). Statistically speaking, women are more likely to be affected by SAD than men. Medications can be helpful in treating serious cases of SAD, but there are drug-free treatments for seasonal affective disorder that don’t require a prescription. Consider these integrative health approaches for SAD: bright light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, vitamin D, exercise, more.

JAN 4 202

In tribute, Raskins say son lived moral, magical life, but felt weight of depression
Bethesda Magazine

In a long, heartfelt essay on Monday night, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin and Sarah Bloom Raskin wrote that their son, Tommy — who died on New Year’s Eve — was precocious, loving, crusading and much more. But he also suffered under the weight and pain of depression, which “became overwhelming and unyielding and unbearable.” In Monday evening’s essay, the Raskins detailed Tommy’s life from birth through college, sharing anecdotes about his love of animals, his family and other people. Tommy Raskin was 25.

DEC 21 2020

Feeling Depressed? Bacteria in Your Gut May Be to Blame
Wall Street Journal

New studies point to the trillions of organisms in the human microbiome as playing an unexpectedly huge role in our well-being. In a series of studies, researchers are discovering that the microbial menagerie living in our digestive tract may help regulate brain function, including mental health. Recent findings by scientists in the U.S., Europe and China are linking our feelings of stress, anxiety and severe depression to disturbances among hundreds of microbe species living in our gut that some researchers have started calling the psychobiome.

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