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Depression Slideshow: Emotional Symptoms, Physical Symptoms, Depression Types, and More

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Depression Overview Slideshow

Depression: What Is It?
It's natural to feel down sometimes, but if that low
mood lingers day after day, it could signal
depression. Major depression is an episode of
sadness or apathy along with other symptoms that
lasts at least two consecutive weeks and is severe
enough to interrupt daily activities. Depression is
not a sign of weakness or a negative personality. It
is a major public health problem and a treatable
medical condition.
Shown here are PET scans of the brain showing
different activity levels in a person with depression,
compared to a person without depression.

Depression Symptoms:
The primary symptoms of depression are a sad
mood and/or loss of interest in life. Activities that
were once pleasurable lose their appeal. Patients
may also be haunted by a sense of guilt or
worthlessness, lack of hope, and recurring thoughts
of death or suicide.

Depression Symptoms:
Depression is sometimes linked to physical
symptoms. These include:
Fatigue and decreased energy
Insomnia, especially early-morning waking
Excessive sleep
Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps,
or digestive problems that do not ease even with
Depression can make other health problems feel
worse, particularly chronic pain. Key brain
chemicals influence both mood and pain. Treating
depression has been shown to improve co-existing



Depression Slideshow: Emotional Symptoms, Physical Symptoms, Depression Types, and More

Depression Symptom: Appetite

Changes in appetite or weight are another hallmark
of depression. Some patients develop increased
appetite, while others lose their appetite altogether.
Depressed people may experience serious weight
loss or weight gain.

Impact on Daily Life

Without treatment, the physical and emotional
turmoil brought on by depression can derail careers,
hobbies, and relationships. Depressed people often
find it difficult to concentrate and make decisions.
They turn away from previously enjoyable activities,
including sex. In severe cases, depression can
become life-threatening.

Suicide Warning Signs

People who are depressed are more likely to
attempt suicide. Warning signs include talking
about death or suicide, threatening to hurt people,
or engaging in aggressive or risky behavior. Anyone
who appears suicidal should be taken very
seriously. Do not hesitate to call one of the suicide
hotlines: 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) and 800-273TALK (800-273-8255). If you have a plan to commit
suicide, go to the emergency room for immediate



Depression Slideshow: Emotional Symptoms, Physical Symptoms, Depression Types, and More

Depression: Who's at Risk?

Anyone can become depressed, but many experts
believe genetics play a role. Having a parent or
sibling with depression increases your risk of
developing the disorder. Women are twice as likely
as men to become depressed.

Causes of Depression
Doctors aren't sure what causes depression, but a
prominent theory is altered brain structure and
chemical function. Brain circuits that regulate mood
may work less efficiently during depression. Drugs
that treat depression are believed to improve
communication between nerve cells, making them
run more normally. Experts also think that while
stress -- such as losing a loved one -- can trigger
depression, one must first be biologically prone to
develop the disorder. Other triggers could include
certain medications, alcohol or substance abuse,
hormonal changes, or even the season.
Illustrated here are neurons (nerve cells) in the brain
communicating via neurotransmitters.

Seasonal Depression
If your mood matches the season -- sunny in the
summer, gloomy in the winter -- you may have a
form of depression called seasonal affective disorder
(SAD). The onset of SAD usually occurs in the late
fall and early winter, as the daylight hours grow
shorter. Experts say SAD affects from 3% to 20%
of all people, depending upon where they live.



Depression Slideshow: Emotional Symptoms, Physical Symptoms, Depression Types, and More

Postpartum Depression
The "baby blues" strikes as many as three out of
four new mothers. But nearly 12% develop a more
intense dark mood that lingers even as their baby
thrives. This is known as postpartum depression,
and the symptoms are the same as those of major
depression. An important difference is that the
baby's well-being is also at stake. A depressed
mother may have trouble enjoying and bonding with
her infant.

Depression in Children
In the United States, depression affects 2% of
grade school kids and about one in 10 teenagers. It
interferes with the ability to play, make friends, and
complete schoolwork. Symptoms are similar to
depression in adults, but some children may appear
angry or engage in risky behavior, called "acting
out." Depression can be difficult to diagnose in

Diagnosing Depression
As of yet, there is no lab test for depression. To
make an accurate diagnosis, doctors rely on a
patient's description of the symptoms. You'll be
asked about your medical history and medication
use since these may contribute to symptoms of
depression. Discussing moods, behaviors, and daily
activities can help reveal the severity and type of
depression. This is a critical step in determining the
most effective treatment.



Depression Slideshow: Emotional Symptoms, Physical Symptoms, Depression Types, and More

Talk Therapy for Depression

Studies suggest different types of talk therapy can
fight mild to moderate depression. Cognitive
behavioral therapy aims to change thoughts and
behaviors that contribute to depression.
Interpersonal therapy identifies how your
relationships impact your mood. Psychodynamic
psychotherapy helps people understand how their
behavior and mood are affected by unresolved
issues and unconscious feelings. Some patients
find a few months of therapy are all they need, while
others continue long term.

Medications for Depression

Antidepressants affect the levels of brain chemicals,
such as serotonin and norepinephrine. There are
many options. Give antidepressants a few weeks of
use to take effect. Good follow-up with your doctor
is important to evaluate their effectiveness and
make dosage adjustments. If the first medication
tried doesn't help, there's a good chance another
will. The combination of talk therapy and medication
appears particularly effective.

Exercise for Depression

Research suggests exercise is a potent weapon
against mild to moderate depression. Physical
activity releases endorphins that can help boost
mood. Regular exercise is also linked to higher selfesteem, better sleep, less stress, and more energy.
Any type of moderate activity, from swimming to
housework, can help. Choose something you enjoy
and aim for 20 to 30 minutes four or five times a



Depression Slideshow: Emotional Symptoms, Physical Symptoms, Depression Types, and More

Light Therapy (Phototherapy)

Light therapy has shown promise as an effective
treatment not only for SAD but for some other types
of depression as well. It involves sitting in front of a
specially designed light box that provides either a
bright or dim light for a prescribed amount of time
each day. Light therapy may be used in conjunction
with other treatments. Talk to your doctor about
getting a light box and the recommended length of
time for its use.

St. John's Wort for Depression

St. John's wort is an herbal supplement that has
been the subject of extensive debate. There is
some evidence that it can fight mild depression, but
two large studies have shown it is ineffective against
moderately severe major depression. St. John's
wort can interact with other medications you may
be taking for medical conditions or birth control.
Talk to you doctor before taking this or any other

Pets for Depression

A playful puppy or wise-mouthed parrot is no
substitute for medication or talk therapy. But
researchers say pets can ease the symptoms of
mild to moderate depression in many people. Pets
provide unconditional love, relieve loneliness, and
give patients a sense of purpose. Studies have
found pet owners have less trouble sleeping and
better overall health.



Depression Slideshow: Emotional Symptoms, Physical Symptoms, Depression Types, and More

The Role of Social Support

Because loneliness goes hand-in-hand with
depression, developing a social support network
can be an important part of treatment. This may
include joining a support group, finding an online
support community, or making a genuine effort to
see friends and family more often. Even joining a
book club or taking classes at your gym can help
you connect with people on a regular basis.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) can help patients
with treatment-resistant depression that does not
improve with medication. VNS is like a pacemaker
for the brain. The surgically implanted device sends
electrical pulses to the brain through the vagus
nerve in the neck. These pulses are believed to
ease depression by affecting mood areas of the

Electroconvulsive Therapy
Another option for patients with treatment-resistant
or severe melancholic depression is
electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This treatment
uses electric charges to create a controlled seizure.
Patients are not conscious for the procedure. ECT
helps 80% to 90% of patients who receive it, giving
new hope to those who don't improve with



Depression Slideshow: Emotional Symptoms, Physical Symptoms, Depression Types, and More

Transcranial Magnetic
A newer option for people with stubborn depression
is repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation
(rTMS). This treatment aims electromagnetic pulses
at the skull. It stimulates a tiny electrical current in
a part of the brain linked to depression. rTMS does
not cause a seizure and appears to have few side
effects. But doctors are still fine-tuning this

Good Outlook
In the midst of major depression, you may feel
hopeless and helpless. But the fact is, this
condition is highly treatable. More than 80% of
people get better with medication, talk therapy, or a
combination of the two. Even when these therapies
fail to help, there are cutting-edge treatments that
pick up the slack.

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on April 21, 2014


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Depression Slideshow: Emotional Symptoms, Physical Symptoms, Depression Types, and More

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Barkham, M. British Medical Bulletin, 2001.
Gjerdinjen, D. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 2007.
Harvard Health Publications: "Exercise and Depression."
Johns Hopkins Health Alerts: "The Many Benefits of Pets."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Seasonal Affective Disorder."
Mental Health America: "Co-occuring Disorders and Depression."
National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health: "How is depression diagnosed and treated?" "What causes
depression?" "What are the signs and symptoms of depression?" "What illnesses often co-exist with depression?" "Magnetic
Stimulation Scores Modest Success as Antidepressant," "Major Depressive Disorder in Children."
The Merck Manual: "Depression."
This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information:
2014 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Depression Slideshow: Emotional Symptoms, Physical Symptoms, Depression Types, and More