Depression

 
Everybody has days when they feel down, sad, anxious, or empty. But if these feelings don't go away for weeks or months, and begin to interfere with your daily life, you may be experiencing depression. This is a real medical disorder involving your brain function, and just as you would do with a physical illness, you should see your doctor if you are feeling depressed. There are treatments available that can help you.
 
 
Remember that depression is not a personal weakness; it is often due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. It can start out of the blue, or be brought on by stress in your life such as a job loss or death in the family, continuing relationship problems, or money problems. Often the reason for a person's depression is unknown, but there are a few known causes:
  • child birth, which can cause postpartum depression
  • other reproductive changes such as menstruation or menopause
  • seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which occurs in high latitudes during the winter, when there is less sunlight during the day
  • other mental problems such as hallucinations or delusions
  • other medical conditions, such as thyroid disease, cancer
 
The "blues" may affect you for a few days, while depression is long term. Also, usually with a short-term drop in your mood you can still function in your day-to-day tasks, but with depression you often cannot. See your doctor or a counselor if this is the case, or if you have any of these signs of depression:
  • constant worry or fear
  • feeling hopeless or worthless     
  • change in appetite, or weight loss or weight gain
  • a lack of energy, or lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • sleep problems - either too much or not being able to sleep well
  • problems with concentration or memory
  • chronic physical problems such as aches and pains, digestion problems, or sexual problems
  • thoughts of suicide
 
If you have mild depression, sometimes simple lifestyle changes can help you feel better. These should also be combined with therapy for more severe depression, because they will help in your recovery:
  • regular exercise
  • spending regular time with family and friends
  • setting realistic goals and breaking large tasks into a series of smaller ones
 
Depression treatment can also be done with psychotherapy and medication (anti-depressants).  Often your doctor will recommend a combination of these two.
 
If the cause of your depression is SAD, then your doctor may recommend light therapy, because being exposed to light of the right wavelength for longer every day during the wintertime can often make people feel better.
 
It is quite common to develop some symptoms of depression during and after pregnancy. There are risk factors that increase your chance of pregnancy-related depression:
  • if you or close family members are currently depressed or have been depressed before
  • having lost a pregnancy in the past
  • stress in your life during pregnancy
  • pregnancy complications
 
Depression during pregnancy takes special management, because some medications may harm your fetus. Talk to your doctor about other options.
 
Sometimes depression comes on after you give birth. It is normal for women to feel some sadness or anxiety for a few weeks after having your baby ("baby blues"), because physically and mentally, having a new baby is a big change in your life.
 
But if your depression continues for longer than a few weeks, you may have postpartum depression. You should see your doctor if you have symptoms of depression past this time, because untreated postpartum depression can be harmful both for you and your baby.
 
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