What is depression?
It's normal to feel sad at times, but clinical depression is a serious disorder requiring treatment. You can't just "snap out of" clinical depression - it's an illness, not a sign of weakness. Depression is associated with reduced levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, impairing the body's ability to respond quickly to external situations. In other words, your brain cannot respond appropriately to information from the external world that unceasingly bombards the senses. Fortunately, antidepressant medication can restore chemical balance in the brain by raising the level of serotonin. Tackling the root of depression through medication and counseling is important for the well being of the whole person. In fact, depression not only causes emotional changes, but also affects behavior, physical health and appearance, academic performance, social activity and the ability to handle everyday situations. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer depression.
What causes depression?
Not all causes of depression are known, but scientists generally agree that certain biological and environmental factors increase the likelihood of depression. Studies have shown that individuals with depressed family members are more likely to develop the disorder. Biological factors include personality traits, chemical imbalances in the brain, and changing hormone levels. You are more likely to suffer depression if you are pessimistic, have poor coping skills, or have low self esteem.
Elements of your environment that may contribute to depression are difficult life events, such as divorce of your parents or death of a loved one, physical illness, and lack of support from friends and family. Although behavior patterns are usually a result of genetics and environment, they too can be considered causes of depression. Such behavior includes abusing alcohol or drugs and holding unrealistic expectations.
What are the symptoms of depression?
If you experience symptoms of depression for more than two weeks it's very important to seek help.
- Sadness or pessimism
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety, guilt
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
- Loss of energy, persistent lethargy
- Headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pains that don't respond to medical treatment
- Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Impaired ability to concentrate, remember, or make decisions
- Inability to take pleasure in former interests; social withdrawal
- Using alcohol or drugs to "feel better"
What is the treatment for depression?
The most common and effective means for treatment is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. A good therapist can help you modify behavioral and emotional patterns that contribute to your illness. Medication improves your ability to cope with life's problems and restores your sense of judgment. Some patients fear that using drugs will change their personality, but most people who take antidepressants find relief and "feel like themselves" again.
How can I help a friend who may be depressed?
Having support from friends and family is essential for individuals suffering depression. Remember that you aren't responsible for your friend's depression, but you can help alleviate the symptoms. Show you care and want to find help for your friend. However, be careful not to be overbearing and controlling - your most important role is as a listener. As you listen to your friend, be supportive - don't deny or minimize your friend's pain. Be honest that your friend's behavior worries you because it's not a trivial problem, but remind him or her that depression is a highly treatable disorder that affects many people. When discussing the subject, stay calm and withdraw if you start getting frustrated by your friend's denial or lack of change.
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Office phone: 718-340-4216