Depression  
Back to Index

 
Does this describe your symptoms?

Definition
  • Feeling depressed
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Decreased pleasure or interest in daily activities

General Information

  • Depression is common, with 1 in 20 Americans getting depressed each year. Women are affected twice as often as men.
  • Depression is treatable.

What are the Symptoms of Depression?

Individuals with depression have a sad mood. They often describe decreased pleasure or interest in daily activities. Sometimes individuals with depression may also have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Significant weight loss (or gain) and not dieting
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or increased sleeping
  • Agitation or mental slowness
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Diminished ability to concentrate
  • Recurrent thoughts of death; suicidal ideation, gestures, or attempts
  • Anxiety
What Causes Depression?

Depression seems to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Stresses in life can sometimes trigger a new episode of depression or worsen existing depression. Causes can include:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce, separation, or other relationship problems
  • Loss of a job, stress from money problems
  • Going off to college
  • Certain medications
  • Severe or long-standing medical illness
How can Depression be Treated?
  • Depression can be treated with psychiatric counseling or with medications. Sometimes both are necessary.
  • Healthy living habits can improve your sense of wellbeing. Good habits for healthy living include eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.

Additional Resources

  1. National Hopeline Network
  2. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment
  3. National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
    • Toll-free phone number: 800-950-6264
    • http://www.nami.org
    • "NAMI is dedicated to the eradication of mental illnesses and to the improvement of the quality of life of all whose lives are affected by these diseases... The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is a network of local support groups for the mentally ill and their families..."

If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance) If
  • Suicide attempt
  • Feeling like harming yourself or killing yourself
  • ... or call your local suicide crisis line NOW
  • ... or call the National Hopeline Network NOW for suicide counseling: 800-784-2433.
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You feel severely depressed (e.g., multiple symptoms of depression)
  • Strange, bizarre, or confused behavior
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think you need to be seen
  • You want to talk with a counselor (mental health worker, psychiatrist, etc.)
  • Your symptoms interfere with work, school, or other activities
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Lack of motivation or difficulty paying attention
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Pregnant
Self Care at Home If
  • Mild depression symptoms and you don't think you need to be seen
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR DEPRESSION

General
  1. Reassurance: People with depression do get through this - even people who feel as badly as you feel now. You can be helped.
  2. Causes of Depression: There are many things in your life that can trigger or contribute to depression symptoms:
    • Death of a loved one
    • Divorce, separation, or other relationship problems
    • Loss of a job, stress from money problems
    • Going off to college
    • Certain medications
    • Severe or long-standing medical illness
  3. Premenstrual Syndrome - Some women experience depression symptoms and irritability during the couple days just before their menstrual period. This is because of fluctuations in the female hormone levels as your menstrual period approaches. Your doctor can help you with this.
  4. Suggestions for Healthy Living - There are things that you can do to make yourself feel better:
    • Eat healthy - Eat a well-balanced diet.
    • Get more sleep - Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Being well-rested improves your attitude and your sense of physical well-being.
    • Communicate - Share how you are feeling with someone in your life who is a good listener. Make certain that your spouse, family, or friends know how you are feeling.
    • Exercise regularly - Take a daily walk.
    • Avoid alcohol.
  5. Stay Active - Staying active can also make you feel better:
    • Get out of your house or apartment periodically. Go on an outing with a family member or a friend. Go to the store. Go to a movie.
    • Become involved in community activities (e.g., church, school, clubs, parent teacher associations).
    • Start a new hobby.
    • Take a daily walk.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Sadness or depression symptoms last more than 2 weeks
    • You want to talk with a counselor
    • You feel like harming yourself
    • You become worse.
Referral Phone Numbers for Depression and Additional Resources
  1. United States Hotline and Helplines - NAMI Information HelpLine:
    • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    • "NAMI is dedicated to the eradication of mental illnesses and to the improvement of the quality of life of all whose lives are affected by these diseases... The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is a network of local support groups for the mentally ill and their families..."
    • The NAMI Helpline is an information and referral source for locating community mental health programs. National toll-free phone number: 800-950-NAMI (6264). Monday through Friday, 10 am- 6 pm, Eastern time.
    • http://www.nami.org
  2. United States - Substance Abuse Treatment:
    • Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration
    • http://www.samhsa.gov/
    • National referral hotline in the U.S. for substance abuse treatment: 800-662-4357 (24 hour a day).
  3. United States - Mood Disorders Organizations:
    • Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA).
    • There is a FIND A THERAPIST link on the home page.
    • http://www.adaa.org/
    • Telephone: 240-485-1001.
  4. Canada Hotlines and Helplines:
    • New Brunswick - Offered by region.
    • Northwest Territories - Nats'ejée K'éh Treatment Centre crisis line - 800-661-0846.
    • Ontario - Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) - 800-463-6273.
  5. Canada - Mood Disorder Organizations

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Author and Senior Reviewer: David A. Thompson, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 12/5/2010

Content Set: Adult HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions LLC; LMS, Inc.