Depression: An Overview

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At some point in our lives we have all experienced depression...whether it was the result of a family hardship or a professional setback, for most of us depression is a natural human emotion...however, for some of us it is more...for some of us; depression is a chronic clinical illness.

What is clinical depression?

Clinical depression is characterized by intense, extended episodes of sadness, low mood and/or loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities.

Is clinical depression a result of a personal character flaw or weakness?

No, clinical depression is a chronic illness much like diabetes...only instead of affecting the body it affects the mind.

What causes clinical depression?

Researchers believe clinical depression may be a result of anything from genetics to hormonal imbalances to early childhood trauma.

What are depression symptoms?

Depression symptoms include: unhappiness, irritability, agitation, frustration, fatigue, sleep disturbances, appetite changes, trouble concentrating, reduced sex drive and reoccurring thoughts of worthlessness.

If individuals are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms should they contact their health care provider?

Yes, depression is a serious illness that could lead to individuals hurting themselves or, even worse, committing suicide.

How is depression diagnosed?

Depression is diagnosed by health care providers using criteria established in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

If individuals are diagnosed with depression should they be encouraged to seek treatment?

Yes, untreated depression can lead to: anxiety, work/school problems, relationship difficulties, social isolation, substance abuse and even death.

How is depression treated?

Health care providers may treat depression with one or more of the following:

Psychotherapy - Psychotherapy is a form of counseling where individuals discuss their condition with health care providers specializing in mental illness.

Cognitive behavioral therapy - Cognitive behavioral therapy is a specific form of psychotherapy where individuals learn how to replace negative thoughts and behaviors with positive ones.

Psychodynamic therapy - Psychodynamic therapy is a type of treatment which focuses on the psychological root of a patient's emotional state to help them develop coping mechanisms.

Interpersonal therapy - Interpersonal therapy is a type of treatment which focuses on social roles and interpersonal interactions. The goal of interpersonal therapy is to teach patients how to better deal with current problems.

Medications - A health care provider may use an antidepressant to relieve depression symptoms. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants include: fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), escitalpram (Lexapro), duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), bupropion (Wellbutrin) and vilazodone (Viibryd). Health care providers may also use other classes of medications to treat depression including: mood-stabilizing medications, anti-anxiety medications and/or antipsychotics. Furthermore, health care providers may use a combination of antidepressants or a combination of antidepressants and other classes of medications, e.g. antidepressant/antipsychotic combination.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) - ECT is a procedure where electrical currents are passed through the brain. ECT works by altering patients' brain chemistry in a way that alleviates depression. ECT is typically reserved for individuals who don't respond to other treatment options.

About the Author

Marc Macera, PharmD, RPh's picture

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