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.
Research suggests that antidepressants are associated with sustained weight gain.
People with rheumatoid arthritis often deal with depression and anxiety related to their pain and disability. While drugs help alleviate joint pain and stiffness, a recent study suggests they may not improve their mental health.
Research suggests that many common prescription and over-the-counter medications have depression as a potential side effect.
Midlife fitness may help lower rates of depression and heart disease after age 65. Higher levels of fitness during middle age have been linked to a 56% lower risk of dying of heart disease among people diagnosed with depression.
Anticholinergic medications used to treat bladder conditions, Parkinson’s disease, and depression are associated with an increased risk of dementia, suggests a new study. People who got dementia had taken the medications for between four and 20 years, and the longer they took the drugs, the greater the risk.
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The signs of mental illness aren't always obvious. Subtle changes in mood or behavior are often attributed to aging, just like weaker muscles and fuzzy thinking. "There's a tendency to dismiss it as, 'Well, of course I'm worried, I have heart disease,' or, 'Of course I'm sad, I'm not as relevant as I once was,'" says Dr. Michael Craig Miller, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
But depression (extreme sadness, worthlessness, or hopelessness) and anxiety (debilitating worry and agitation) do not need to be routine parts of aging. Getting help for these feelings can help you maintain your health and enjoy life to the fullest.
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Depression continues to be a major health issue for older adults. It affects about 20% of adults ages 65 and older, and regular depression can lead to higher risks for heart disease and death from illnesses. It also affects people's daily lives by making them more socially isolated and affecting cognitive function, especially memory.
In fact, a study of 1,111 people (average age 71), published online May 9, 2018, by Neurology, found that those who had greater symptoms of depression also had worse episodic memory — the ability to recall specific experiences and events.
Q. My friend was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but it seems like she might be imagining her symptoms. Is fibromyalgia a real condition?
A. The short answer to your question is yes. Fibromyalgia is a real condition that affects some four million Americans. It's a chronic pain syndrome that experts believe may be caused by a malfunctioning nervous system. Researchers using magnetic resonance imaging to examine the brains of people with fibromyalgia have found abnormalities in the part of the brain that processes pain signals from the body. It appears that this part of the brain is essentially boosting the intensity of normal pain signals, potentially causing the body to feel pain without a physical cause.
People with fibromyalgia experience muscular pain and tenderness throughout their body along with other symptoms, including extreme fatigue, mood disturbances (such as anxiety and depression), headaches, and problems with sleep and memory.
A new study found that resistance training, such as weight lifting and exercises like push-ups, can reduce depression symptoms. Longer and harder sessions did not provide any more symptom improvement compared to shorter and less vigorous workouts.
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Looking for a simple way to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and maybe even improve your memory? Take a walk in the woods.
"Many men are at higher risk for mood disorders as they age, from dealing with sudden life changes like health issues, the loss of loved ones, and even the new world of retirement," says Dr. Jason Strauss, director of geriatric psychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance. "They may not want to turn to medication or therapy for help, and for many, interacting with nature is one of the best self-improvement tools they can use."