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Clinical Depression

A mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.

Very common

More than 3 million US cases per year

  • Treatable by a medical professional
  • Medium-term: resolves within months
  • Requires a medical diagnosis
  • Lab tests or imaging always required

Possible causes include a combination of biological, psychological, and social sources of distress. Increasingly, research suggests these factors may cause changes in brain function, including altered activity of certain neural circuits in the brain.

The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes major depression can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide.

The mainstay of treatment is usually medication, talk therapy, or a combination of the two. Increasingly, research suggests these treatments may normalize brain changes associated with depression.

Ages affected

Symptoms

Requires a medical diagnosis

The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes major depression can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide.

People may experience:

Mood: anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or sadness
Behavioral: agitation, excessive crying, irritability, restlessness, or social isolation
Sleep: early awakening, excess sleepiness, insomnia, or restless sleep
Whole body: excessive hunger, fatigue, or loss of appetite
Cognitive: lack of concentration, slowness in activity, or thoughts of suicide
Weight: weight gain or weight loss
Also common: poor appetite or repeatedly going over thoughts

Treatments

Treatment consists of antidepressants
The mainstay of treatment is usually medication, talk therapy, or a combination of the two. Increasingly, research suggests these treatments may normalize brain changes associated with depression.

Therapies

Cognitive behavioral therapy: A talk therapy focused on modifying negative thoughts, behaviors, and emotional responses associated with psychological distress.
Behavior therapy: A therapy focused on modifying harmful behaviors associated with psychological distress.
Psychotherapy: Treatment of mental or behavioral disorders through talk therapy.

Medications

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI): Eases symptoms of depressed mood and anxiety.

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, and Prozac Weekly)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva, and Paxil CR)

Antidepressant: Prevents or relieves depression and elevates mood

  • Bupropion (Zyban, Aplenzin, Wellbutrin XL, Wellbutrin SR, and Forfivo XL)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron and Remeronsoltab)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta and lrenka)
  • Amitriptyline
  • Imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Selegiline (Emsam, Zelapar, and Eldepryl)
  • Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
  • Trazodone (Oleptro ER)
  • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq and Khedezla)

Anxiolytic: Relieves anxiety and tension. May promote sleep.

  • Buspirone

Antipsychotic: Reduces or improves the symptoms of certain psychiatric conditions.

  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)

Medical procedure

Electroconvulsive therapy: Treating mental illness by sending electric currents through the brain to trigger a seizure. Also known as shock treatment.

Specialists

Clinical psychologist: Treats mental disorders primarily with talk therapy.
Psychiatrist: Treats mental disorders primarily with medications.
Primary care provider (PCP): Prevents, diagnoses, and treats diseases.
Emergency medicine doctor: Treats patients in the emergency department.

Consult a doctor for medical advice
Note: The information you see describes what usually happens with a medical condition, but doesn’t apply to everyone. This information isn’t medical advice, so make sure to contact a healthcare provider if you have a medical problem. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or a emergency number immediately.

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