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

When depression starts in the neck

Treating an underactive thyroid gland may improve mood. When someone develops depression, the brain usually becomes the focus of attention. But other organs can be the source of the problem. A common example is when the thyroid gland produces too little hormone — a condition known as hypothyroidism. Nearly 10 million Americans suffer from hypothyroidism. The condition is much more common in women than in men, and becomes more prevalent with age. As many as one in five women will develop hypothyroidism by age 60. Although researchers aren't entirely sure why there is a link between hypothyroidism and depression, it is likely that some people are taking antidepressants when they should really be taking thyroid medication. Here is a brief review of when clinicians and patients should consider hypothyroidism as a possible cause of low mood — and what to do next. More »

In Brief

Brief reports on hypertension statistics, a theory about why some people show more of an HDL cholesterol benefit from exercise than others, and more about the connection between depression and heart disease. (Locked) More »

Major depression more likely during perimenopause than during premenopause

Perimenopause begins several years before menopause (the end of menstruation) and ends a year after the last menstrual period. During this transition, ovarian hormones are in flux, resulting in irregular periods and sometimes vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats). In a study, approximately one-third of women in perimenopause had at least one episode of major depression. (Locked) More »

Women and depression

Women are about twice as likely as men to develop major depression. They also have higher rates of seasonal affective disorder, depressive symptoms in bipolar disorder, and dysthymia (chronic depression). More than mere sadness, depression can make someone feel as though work, school, relationships, and other aspects of life have been derailed or indefinitely put on hold. It can sap the joy out of once-pleasurable activities and leave someone feeling continuously burdened. This mood disorder may also cause physical symptoms, such as fatigue, pain, and gastrointestinal problems. It remains unclear why a gender gap exists in depression. Researchers have examined genes, hormones, stress, and other factors in an effort to find an explanation for the discrepancy. More »

Four sob stories

Research on crying focuses on several different areas, including the chemicals in emotional tears and their purpose, and whether or not depressed people cry more. Tears provoked by emotion contain higher levels of proteins and the mineral manganese. In 2011, Israeli researchers reported results in the journal Science that suggested tears are capable of sending chemical signals. They conducted an experiment that involved having men sniff women's tears and a saline solution. Tests showed that the men reacted differently to a whiff of the real tears. Their testosterone levels dipped, and brain scans showed less activity in areas associated with sexual arousal. The researchers' theory: women's tears may counteract men's aggressive tendencies. Others have speculated on the role of tears in evolution and natural selection. Depression makes people sad, so it's presumed that depressed people cry more than those who aren't depressed. There's also an abiding belief that more severe bouts with depression can have just the opposite effect and rob people of their capacity to cry. Researchers found that an inability to cry was associated with severe depression. (Locked) More »

Fish oil questioned as treatment for heart disease

Results of several studies suggest that taking fish oil does not benefit people who already have some form of heart disease, but eating fish is still likely to offer health benefits to most people. It could fight other types of cardiovascular disease or problems like depression. And it is a good treatment for high triglycerides. More »

Going off antidepressants

People who have been taking antidepressants for some time may wish to stop taking them due to unpleasant side effects. This can be accomplished, but it is best to taper the dosage slowly and be aware of the potential for discontinuation symptoms. (Locked) More »

How to taper off your antidepressant

Discontinuing an antidepressant usually involves reducing your dose in increments. Your clinician can instruct you in tapering your dose and   prescribe the appropriate dosage pills. Here are suggested dosage reductions for some of the most popular antidepressants. More »

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (broken-heart syndrome)

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also called broken-heart syndrome, is a weakening of the left ventricle that is usually the result of severe stress. Its symptoms resemble those of a heart attack, and treatment is usually the same as that for heart failure, possibly beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics (water pills). More »

Pain, anxiety, and depression

Everyone experiences pain at some point, but in people with depression or anxiety, pain can become particularly intense and hard to treat. People suffering from depression, for example, tend to experience more severe and long-lasting pain than other people. The overlap of anxiety, depression, and pain is particularly evident in chronic and sometimes disabling pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, low back pain, headaches, and nerve pain. For example, about two-thirds of patients with irritable bowel syndrome who are referred for follow-up care have symptoms of psychological distress, most often anxiety. About 65% of patients seeking help for depression also report at least one type of pain symptom. Psychiatric disorders not only contribute to pain intensity but also to increased risk of disability. Researchers once thought the reciprocal relationship between pain, anxiety, and depression resulted mainly from psychological rather than biological factors. Chronic pain is depressing, and likewise major depression may feel physically painful. But as researchers have learned more about how the brain works, and how the nervous system interacts with other parts of the body, they have discovered that pain shares some biological mechanisms with anxiety and depression. More »