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

Depression and obesity: Confirming the link

It appears obesity is associated with depression in older adults. Obesity affects the parts of the brain that regulate mood. Low energy and low motivation from depression can translate into less activity and exercise. The result may be weight gain. Individuals can break the vicious cycle by making a small change in eating or exercise habits. Losing weight will improve motivation, energy, and mood. (Locked) More »

Avoid landing back in the hospital

Men are at a significantly higher risk of returning for urgent care within a month after being discharged from the hospital. It appears that men who are socially isolated—single, retired, and depressed—are more likely to return for urgent care. Doctors advise that both men and women should arrange for a caregiver to help at the time of hospital discharge and once at home to ensure adherence to a recovery regimen and physician follow-up. (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Can a light box for SAD damage my eyes?

Although damage to the eye’s retina is a theoretical risk of light therapy for SAD, it has not been found to be a problem thus far. To protect your eyes during treatment, do not stare at the light source, and use fluorescent light rather than incandescent. (Locked) More »

Depression: Early warning of dementia?

Researchers have discovered that older people who are depressed are more likely to develop dementia. The two conditions appear to share common causes. Many older adults miss the signs of depression, believing it to be an inevitable consequence of aging. It’s important for older adults who are depressed to get treated with antidepressant medicines, talk therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy, and to get evaluated for dementia. More »

Yet another risk of heart failure

Heart failure can be a difficult diagnosis to accept, since the disease can lead to significant health complications and poor quality of life. And while depression is more common in women with HF, a new study finds that the severity of the depression is much greater in men with HF. There is also growing evidence that depression can worsen heart disease. Depression may cause a person to stop taking medicine, exercising, or eating properly, which may hurt heart health. So depression after a diagnosis of HF can lead to a downward spiral. That’s why it’s so important for depression to be recognized. (Locked) More »

Can you die of a broken heart?

Harvard Heart Letter | January 2002 (updated February 2012) Now and then, the obituary page lists the deaths of an older couple that passed away within a short time of each other. "I bet they died of a broken heart," you might muse with a sad shake of the head. Can that really happen? Several centuries ago, the answer would have been yes — "griefe" was widely considered a cause of death. Thirty years ago, scientists would have dismissed such a romantic idea. Now we're edging back to yes again, nudged by documented instances of bad news triggering heart attacks, studies tracing the repercussions of bereavement or the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters, and a better understanding of how stress and depression affect the heart. More »