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

Seasonal affective disorder

In the northern and southern regions of the world, winter means shorter days and longer nights. This seasonal shift, and the lack of sunlight that goes along with it, can trigger a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder. People with seasonal affective disorder, sometimes known as the winter blues, begin to experience sadness, depression, and fatigue in the late fall; symptoms fade away in the spring. Women tend to develop seasonal affective disorder more than men. The condition often begins in the third or fourth decade of life, though some children show signs of it. Individuals with seasonal affective disorder experience some of these symptoms: More »

Seasonal blues: Should you worry?

Many people feel a change in mood with the change in seasons. In some cases, major clinical depression can be triggered by the change from fall to winter or winter to spring. This pattern is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A possibly helpful treatment is morning exposure to a special daylight lamp. However, depression of any kind that causes concern should be evaluated by a doctor. (Locked) More »

A holiday advisory for your emotions

Holidays tend to intensify feelings across the emotional spectrum. If you dread them, you can develop survival strategies. If you love them, enjoy and reap the health benefits. More »

Is that mood change a sign of something more serious?

Mood-related symptoms can come and go in response to everyday stresses. If they occur for long periods, cause significant distress, or interfere with daily functioning, it’s an indication to seek help. Mood changes may be the result of a psychiatric disorder, a sleep disorder, a medication’s side effect, or changes in brain structures or chemical neurotransmitter systems. A significant mood change that lasts for more than a few weeks should be evaluated by a health care professional.   More »

Easing depression and anxiety in people with heart disease

A phone-based counseling program to treat depression, anxiety, and panic disorder in people hospitalized for heart disease led to improvements in mental health and fewer, less severe symptoms of heart disease. The program included information and counseling, initially in the hospital and later via phone. Participants also received antidepressants as needed, coordinated through primary care providers.  (Locked) More »

What you should know about antidepressants

Using antidepressants can be tricky, since it can’t be predicted exactly how someone will respond to treatment. There are four categories of antidepressants plus a few “atypicals” that have unique properties. Each antidepressant works a little differently, but they all target chemical messaging systems in the brain that help regulate mood. Treatment is a trial-and-error process, so finding the right drug takes patience. It can take weeks to feel the positive effects and longer (six to eight weeks) to decide how one feels about the balance of good results and side effects. More »