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

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 »

4 Fast mood boosters

Many activities can help chase away the blues. Examples include exercising, meditating, spending time with others, taking up a hobby, and volunteering. (Locked) More »

Drug-free options to fight depression

Treatment for depression isn’t limited to drugs. There is good evidence that nondrug treatments and lifestyle changes can ease the symptoms of depression. Exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help with mild to moderate depression. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is considered a last-resort alternative for people with moderate to severe depression that hasn’t responded to treatment. While CBT is usually covered by insurance, rTMS is not always covered. A primary care physician can recommend a CBT therapist. A psychiatrist can recommend an rTMS practitioner. (Locked) More »

What are the real risks of antidepressants?

Reports of risky side effects may have dampened enthusiasm for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are among the world's most widely prescribed medications. A review of concerns and benefits associated with SSRIs. More »

Working off depression

A roundup of studies exploring the beneficial effects of exercise on depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Is it a case of the chicken and the egg? More »