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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

  • Jun 17, 2020
Preventing Depression with an Online Self-help Program

A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry in May finds that an online guided self-help program significantly reduced the risk of depression in a group of people at high risk for the mental disorder.  

  • May 12, 2020
VIDEO: Richard Kogan, M.D., on The Mind and Music of Tchaikovsky

Richard Kogan, M.D., was scheduled to deliver a talk on “Tchaikovsky: Music and Melancholy,” at the APA Annual Meeting in April. It was to be part of a series of lecture-performances that he has presented over the years at APA’s Annual Meetings on the connections between musical artistry and mental illness.

  • May 06, 2020
Computer-Assisted Treatment and Mobile Apps for Depression

Technology is increasingly assisting us in many aspects of our lives, and mental health treatment is no exception. Research continues to show the benefits of computer-assisted cognitive behavioral therapy (CCBT) for treating depression and the potential of mental health mobile apps to help.

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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 actively participate, 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


About the Expert:

Alan Gelenberg, M.D.
Chair of Department of Psychiatry
Penn State University, College of Medicine

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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.

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Editor's Choice

MAR 29 2020

Advocacy group uses technology to help those with anxiety and depression during pandemic

KTXL Fox40

As the coronavirus spreads, so does stress and fear. Peer support groups serve as a place of comfort and connection for people with mental health conditions. But with a stay-at-home order across Sacramento, the National Alliance on Mental Illness can’t host its weekly meetings in-person. So NAMI Executive Director David Bain is turning to the Internet, hosting meetings through video chats on Zoom.

MAR 28 2020

The surprising link between depression and memory

There is some evidence that depression can temporarily affect a person's short-term memory. Thankfully, it's temporary—but still challenging for those who are experiencing it to cope. A lot of the connection between depression and memory loss has to do with how our body handles stress. “The link between stress, depression, and physical fatigue is quite cyclical. When someone is experiencing a greater amount of stress, they can often feel stuck, leading to a depressive state,” says Katie Cunningham, a Chicago-based therapist.

MAR 26 2020

How you can help: Watch for signs of depression in a time of ‘uncertainty

Salt Lake Tribune

If you want to help someone during the coronavirus pandemic, keep an eye out for signs of depression in your loved ones — and in yourself. If you don’t have a history of depression, Mickelson said, such uncertainty can bring stress — and you should make sure you employ healthy strategies to manage that stress. Often, those strategies can be simple things, he said, “like walking or biking or playing guitar” — the everyday activities that make you happy. Taking care of others also can have benefits. “Being helpful is a great way to relieve stress,” he said.


Additional Resources and Organizations

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Mental Health America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Institute on Mental Health

Physician Reviewed

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
January 2017