What is depression?

Depression is a medical condition that causes feelings of sadness or hopelessness that do not go away. Depression may cause you to lose interest in things you used to enjoy. These feelings may interfere with your daily life.

What causes or increases my risk for depression?

Depression may be caused by changes in brain chemicals that affect your mood. Your risk for depression may be higher if you have any of the following:

  • Stressful events such as the death of a loved one, unemployment, or divorce
  • A family history of depression
  • A chronic medical condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

  • Appetite changes, or weight gain or loss
  • Trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Feeling restless, irritable, or withdrawn
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, discouraged, or guilty
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering things, doing daily tasks, or making decisions
  • Thoughts about hurting or killing yourself

How is depression diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and how long you have had them. He or she will ask if you have any family members with depression. Tell your healthcare provider about any stressful events in your life. He or she may ask about any other health conditions or medicines you take.

How is depression treated?

  • Antidepressant medicine may be given to relieve depression. You may need to take this medicine for several weeks before you begin to feel better. Tell your healthcare provider about any side effects or problems you have with your medicine. The type or amount of medicine may need to be changed.

How can I manage depression?

  • Get regular physical activity. Try to be active for 30 minutes, 3 to 5 days a week. Physical activity can help relieve depression. Work with your healthcare provider to develop a plan that you enjoy. It may help to ask someone to be active with you.
  • Create a regular sleep schedule. A routine can help you relax before bed. Listen to music, read, or do yoga. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Sleep is important for emotional health.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, and cooked beans. A healthy meal plan is low in fat, salt, and added sugar.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use drugs. Alcohol and drugs can make depression worse. Talk to your therapist or doctor if you need help quitting.

The following resources are available at any time to help you, if needed:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
  • Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE)
  • For a list of international numbers:

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You think about harming yourself or someone else.
  • You have done something on purpose to hurt yourself.

When should I call my therapist or doctor?

  • Your symptoms do not improve.
  • You cannot make it to your next appointment.
  • Maybe have new symptoms.
  • Do you have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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