Depression

Sadness touches our lives at different times, but usually comes and goes. Depression, in contrast, often has enormous depth and staying power. It is more than a passing bout of "the blues." Depression can leave you feeling continuously burdened and can squash the joy you once got out of pleasurable activities.

When depression strikes, doctors usually probe what's going on in the mind and brain first. But it's also important to check what's going on in the body, since some medical problems are linked to mood disturbances. In fact, physical illnesses and medication side effects are behind up to 15% of all depression cases.

Depression isn't a one-size-fits-all illness. Instead, it can take many forms. Everyone's experience and treatment for depression is different. Effective treatments include talk therapy, medications, and exercise. Even bright light is used to treat a winter-onset depression known as seasonal affective disorder. Treatment can improve mood, strengthen connections with loved ones, and restore satisfaction in interests and hobbies.

New discoveries are helping improve our understanding of the biology of depression. These advances could pave the way for even more effective treatment with new drugs and devices. Better understanding of the genetics of depression could also usher in an era of personalized treatment.

Depression Articles

Anxiety disorders

You've probably had anxiety symptoms—a thumping heart, rapid breathing, and feelings of apprehension and fear. You might have felt anxious before an important event or a major medical procedure. "Some degree of anxiety is normal and even necessary. Anxiety signals us that something is awry or might need our attention. However, you don't want the response to become exaggerated or to dominate your life," says Dr. Ann R. Epstein, medical editor of the Harvard Special Health Report Coping with Anxiety and Stress Disorders. If you often feel anxious without an apparent cause, you may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are a spectrum of related conditions with similar biological origins. While each disorder has its own set of anxiety symptoms, many anxiety symptoms overlap. Some of the most common anxiety symptoms include More »

Six common depression types

Depression is not only hard to endure, it is also a risk factor for heart disease and dementia. "Depressive symptoms can occur in adults for many reasons. If you are experiencing mood or cognitive changes that last for more than a few weeks, it's a good idea to bring this up with your doctor or consult a mental health specialist to help sort out possible causes," says Dr. Nancy Donovan, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. The four most common types of depression are major depression, persistent depressive disorder(formerly known as dysthymia), bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder. Major depression. The classic depression type, major depression is a state where a dark mood is all-consuming and one loses interest in activities, even ones that are usually pleasurable.  Symptoms of this type of depression include trouble sleeping, changes in appetite or weight, loss of energy, and feeling worthless. Thoughts of death or suicide may occur. It is usually treated with psychotherapy and medication. For some people with severe depression that isn't alleviated with psychotherapy or antidepressant medications, electroconvulsive therapy may be effective. More »

Depression and heart disease: A two-way street

Depression is about twice as likely to occur in people with heart disease compared with the general population. Both conditions have been linked to inflammation, which may damage the heart and blood vessels. And people with depression face a heightened risk of heart disease, possibly because they have a hard time getting regular exercise and eating healthy foods. Antidepressant medications (which a primary care provider can prescribe) combined with talk therapy with a mental health professional can help.  (Locked) More »

Getting through grief

Although most people recover from the loss of a loved one, grieving can lead to depression. It’s important for the bereaved to focus on maintaining good health habits, recognize their needs and limitations, and get adequate emotional support. (Locked) More »

Is your antidepressant making life a little too blah?

Sometimes, the effect of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) goes beyond improving mood and makes a person feel too little emotion. For example, a person may not cry at a movie’s ending, laugh with the same gusto, or get the same kick out of doing things that once brought enjoyment. A change of drug or dose may fix this. However, it’s important not to stop taking an SSRI without a doctor’s supervision. Suddenly stopping the medication may cause a relapse into depression.  (Locked) More »

4 things you can do to alleviate caregiver stress

Taking care of a loved one can take a physical and psychological toll. Getting help with caregiving and finding emotional support are crucial for caregivers. Government programs and nonprofit organizations offer helpful resources. More »

Depression: Not just a run-of-the-mill bad day

Feeling blue is normal. Bouts of sadness, disinterest, or lack of motivation happen to everyone. But when those feelings persist for more than two weeks, it's more than just a run-of-the-mill bad day. It's depression. In 2014, almost 7% of American adults reported experiencing an episode of depression in the year before the survey. That means 15.7 million adults in this country felt hopeless, discouraged, irritable, and unhappy, and these feelings affected all aspects of their lives. More »

5 ways to fight loneliness and isolation

Loneliness and isolation are associated with developing a number of health conditions, such as coronary artery disease and stroke. Avoiding loneliness and isolation takes planning and effort. Strategies include reaching out to family and friends, even if it’s just a phone call or video call; signing up for rides through senior centers; joining a club or spiritual community, such as a church or synagogue; getting a pet; and signing up for visits from volunteers at senior centers. (Locked) More »