The causes of SAD are unclear, says NIMH, but research suggests it may be due to seasonal fluctuations in levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate mood, or to an overproduction of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Scientists also posit that people with SAD may produce too little vitamin D, which impacts serotonin activity.
Sometimes people have prejudices about physical disability that make them feel like “second class citizens” when they become disabled themselves. Sometimes people with a disability get into the habit of letting other people do things for them and as a result they start to feel helpless. Sometimes people with a disability start to avoid situations that make them nervous (for example going out in public where others can see that they look or act differently). This makes those situations much more scary or upsetting when they can no longer be avoided.

Many medications and therapies help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Antidepressants reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety because they change how the brain sends chemical signals. Sometimes a single method can help both symptoms of depression/anxiety and headache. However, many patients require two different drugs or behavioral treatments for a period of time. They need one to treat depression/anxiety and another to prevent migraines.
Prioritize. Depression is frequently an overwhelming situation. At the same time that you are depressed and suffering, life demands do not stop. One way to reduce the amount of stress you experience is to prioritize the demands you are facing and then to attend to only the most pressing tasks. Enlist the help of other family members or friends to get the rest of your responsibilities done, or simply let them ride for a while. For instance, if you normally cook the evening meal for your family after returning home from a full day's work, perhaps you can figure out an easier way to get dinner on the table for a while (working to support the family is a higher priority than making sure that every meal the family eats is nicely balanced and well-presented).
In addition to becoming more irritable, teens might lose interest in activities they formerly enjoyed, experience a change in their weight, and start abusing substances. They may also take more risks, show less concern for their safety, and they are more likely to complete suicide than their younger counterparts when depressed. Generally, acne increases the risk of teen depression.
MOAIs are not considered first-line treatment for depression because of the side effects, drug-drug interactions, and dietary restrictions. Common side effects include hypotension, dizziness, dry mouth, gastrointestinal upset, urinary hesitancy, headache and myoclonic jerks. Because of the risk of hypertensive crisis with drugs that specifically inhibit MAOa in the gastrointestinal tract, patients on these medications must follow a low-tyramine diet.

Phobias are extreme and irrational fears about a particular thing. The can be so great that the person goes to great lengths to avoid it, even if it’s harmless. For example social phobia is fear of being judged or embarrassed in public, even in everyday situations like when eating, speaking at work or making small talk.  Another type is agoraphobia, often thought to be a fear of open spaces. It is also a fear of being closed in, or away from a safe place or person who makes you feel safe. It can be extremely disabling and frightening, and can leave people unable to leave their home.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs are the most widely used class of antidepressants. They work by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain. Unlike MAOIs and TCAs, SSRIs do not significantly affect norepinephrine levels in the brain. SSRIs also have fewer and milder side effects, fewer drug interactions, and are much less likely to be associated with suicide than TCAs.
Understanding the underlying cause of your depression may help you overcome the problem. For example, if you are depressed because of a dead-end job, the best treatment might be finding a more satisfying career rather than simply taking an antidepressant. If you are new to an area and feeling lonely and sad, finding new friends will probably give you more of a mood boost than going to therapy. In such cases, the depression is remedied by changing the situation.
There are two circumstances under which an anxiety patient may need specific help for depression. One is if he or she has become so depressed in response to anxiety that they no longer have the energy and motivation to overcome the anxiety disorder. In this case, either medication or cognitive behavioral methods can be used to help overcome the depression. The second is the case of a person who experienced a severe depression before the anxiety disorder appeared, a depression which was not just a reaction to the troubles imposed by the anxiety disorder. This depression, called a primary depression, is likely to require medication treatment.

Atypical antidepressants. These medications don't fit neatly into any of the other antidepressant categories. They include trazodone, mirtazapine (Remeron), vortioxetine (Trintellix), vilazodone (Viibryd) and bupropion (Wellbutrin, Aplenzin, Forfivo XL). Bupropion is one of the few antidepressants not frequently associated with sexual side effects.


Remember, antidepressants aren’t a cure. Medication may treat some symptoms of depression, but can’t change the underlying issues and situations in your life that are making you depressed. That’s where exercise, therapy, mindfulness meditation, social support and other lifestyle changes come in. These non-drug treatments can produce lasting changes and long-term relief.
Another type of depression is bipolar disorder, which encompasses a group of mood disorders formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression. These conditions often show a particular pattern of inheritance. Not nearly as common as the other types of depressive illnesses, bipolar disorders involve cycles of mood that include at least one episode of mania or hypomania and may include episodes of depression, as well. Bipolar disorders are often chronic and recurring. Sometimes, the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual, in that they usually take place over several days, weeks, or longer.
Many factors contribute to depression, and it is likely caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals. Life events (such as stressful life changes) may also contribute to a depressed mood. Depression also tends to run in families. The exact biological cause of depression is still being investigated, including by scientists at McLean like Diego A. Pizzagalli, PhD.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Doctors often start by prescribing an SSRI. These medications generally cause fewer bothersome side effects and are less likely to cause problems at higher therapeutic doses than other types of antidepressants are. SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa) and escitalopram (Lexapro).

Anxiety Disorders are characterized by a sense of doubt and vulnerability about future events. The attention of anxious people is focused on their future prospects, and the fear that those future prospects will be bad. Anxiety Disorders are characterized by a variety of symptoms involving anxious thoughts, unexplained physical sensations, and avoidant or self protective behaviors.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were launched in the mid to late 1980s. This generation of antidepressants is now the most common class used for depression. Examples include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), and sertraline (Zoloft). Two medicines, classified as "serotonin modulators and stimulators" or SMS's (meaning they have some similar properties as SSRIs but also affect other brain receptors) are vilazodone (Viibryd) and vortioxetine (Trintellix) Side effects are generally mild, but can be bothersome in some people. They include nausea, stomach upset, sexual problems, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, weight change, and headaches.
Postpartum psychosis is a very serious mental illness that can affect new mothers. This illness can happen quickly, often within the first three months after childbirth. Women can experience psychotic depression, in that the depression causes them to lose touch with reality, have auditory hallucinations (hearing things that aren't actually happening, like a person talking when there is no one there), and delusions (interpreting things completely differently from what they are in reality). Visual hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there) are less common. Other symptoms include insomnia (not being able to sleep), feeling agitated (unsettled) and angry, strange feelings and behaviors, as well as less commonly having suicidal or homicidal thoughts. Women who have postpartum psychosis need treatment right away and almost always need medication. Sometimes doctors hospitalize women because they are at risk for hurting themselves or someone else, including their baby.
Depressive disorders are mood disorders that have been with mankind since the beginning of recorded history. In the Bible, King David, as well as Job, suffered from this affliction. Hippocrates referred to depression as melancholia, which literally means black bile. Black bile, along with blood, phlegm, and yellow bile were the four humors (fluids) that described the basic medical physiology theory of that time. Literature and the arts have portrayed depression, also referred to as clinical depression, for hundreds of years, but what do we mean today when we refer to a depressive disorder? In the 19th century, people thought of depression as an inherited weakness of temperament. In the first half of the 20th century, Freud linked the development of depression to guilt and conflict. John Cheever, the author and a modern sufferer of depressive disorder, wrote of conflict and experiences with his parents as influencing his becoming clinically depressed.
Crisis lines aren’t only for people in crisis. You can call for information on local services or if you just need someone to talk to. If you are in distress, call 310-6789 (do not add 604, 778 or 250 before the number) 24 hours a day to connect to a BC crisis line, without a wait or busy signal. The crisis lines linked in through 310-6789 have received advanced training in mental health issues and services by members of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information.
Track your thoughts. Writing down your thoughts is a good way to identify those that are contributing to making you feel down and depressed; these might include thoughts like ‘I’m useless’ or ‘no one cares about me’. Just because we think something, it doesn’t mean it’s true, so learn how to challenge negative thinking. If your mood is really low and you have difficulty challenging your thoughts, avoid writing them down on your own and instead seek help from a mental health professional.
Negative thinking. People with depression get stuck in negative thinking. This can make people focus on problems and faults. It can make things seem bleaker than they really are. Negative thinking can make a person believe things will never get better, that problems are too big to solve, that nothing can fix the situation, or that nothing matters. 
Educate Yourself. Depression is a type of illness, and illnesses tend to make people feel out of control. One way to regain a sense of control is to educate yourself about your illness. You can do this by talking with your doctors and therapists, by listening to what other people who have had depression have to say about it, and by reading as much as you can. The more you know about what depression is and how it may be treated, the better chance you have of figuring out the combination of treatments and techniques that will help you feel better. There are literally thousands of self-help books out there for depression. Some of them are even worth reading. We provide a list of such books we consider worthwhile at the end of this document.
Negative thinking. People with depression get stuck in negative thinking. This can make people focus on problems and faults. It can make things seem bleaker than they really are. Negative thinking can make a person believe things will never get better, that problems are too big to solve, that nothing can fix the situation, or that nothing matters. 

Beware of drug interactions. You should avoid drinking alcohol when taking SSRIs since it can lessen the effects of the medication. Dangerous drug interactions can occur when SSRIs are taken with antihistamines, found in many over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines and sleep aids, or with prescription painkillers. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before combining medications.
During the holidays, our thoughts may gravitate to memories of our youth, growing up and time spent with family and friends. But as often happens when we age, family members and friends pass away. Loved ones move far away because of family and job obligations. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can take hold, especially during the holidays, a time that in the past was filled with activities and traditions with family and friends.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are medications that increase the amount of the neurochemical serotonin in the brain. (Remember that brain serotonin levels often are low in depression.) As their name implies, the SSRIs work by selectively inhibiting (blocking) serotonin reuptake in the brain. This block occurs at the synapse, the place where brain cells (neurons) connect to each other. Serotonin is one of the chemicals in the brain that carries messages across these connections (synapses) from one neuron to another.
Getting support plays an essential role in overcoming depression. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression. At the same time, the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. When you’re depressed, the tendency is to withdraw and isolate so that connecting to even close family members and friends can be tough.

TCAs are safe and generally well tolerated when properly prescribed and administered. However, if taken in overdose, TCAs can cause life-threatening heart-rhythm disturbances. Some TCAs can also have anticholinergic side effects, which are due to the blocking of the activity of the nerves that are responsible for control of the heart rate, gut motion, visual focus, and saliva production. Thus, some TCAs can produce dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, and dizziness upon standing. The dizziness results from low blood pressure that occurs upon standing (orthostatic hypotension). Anticholinergic side effects can also aggravate narrow-angle glaucoma, urinary obstruction due to benign prostate enlargement (hypertrophy), and cause delirium in the elderly. Patients with seizure disorders or a history of strokes should avoid TCAs.
Encourage the person to get a clinical evaluation. You can start by helping them to fill out our Depression and Bipolar Test. When finished, you can print the results so that the person can bring them to a clinician for further evaluation. Mention that depression and bipolar disorder are both treatable medical conditions. Often, people feel relieved to learn that they are suffering from a medical condition. Ask the person to see a medical professional, offer to make an appointment, and go with the person or call the doctor in advance to state the person’s symptoms.
Some of these side effects are believed to be a direct consequence of the medication's effect on the brain and are relatively similar among various drugs of the same group. Patients who are taking antidepressants sometimes have a dry mouth, headaches, feel faint, anxious, and have a decreased sex drive. These kinds of symptoms are often perceived to be a side effect of the medications. But some of them may be caused by the depression itself.
Sometimes it is best to both take medication and see a therapist. Medications can be helpful in many cases. Sometimes people are afraid of acting and thinking strangely, or becoming dependent on drugs used to treat anxiety and depression. When these medications are taken as prescribed by a doctor, bad side effects can be reduced or eliminated and there is little risk of becoming addicted to them. Remember that these medications are not the same as street drugs used to get high.

Because depression can affect how a person acts, it might be misunderstood as a bad attitude. Other people may think the person isn't trying or not putting in any effort. For example, a negative or irritable mood can cause someone to act more argumentative, disagreeable, or angry. That can make the person seem difficult to get along with or cause others to keep their distance. Low motivation, low energy, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of "why bother?" can lead someone to skip classes or school.
Americans are obsessed with happiness, yet we are increasingly depressed: Some 15 million Americans battle the disorder, and increasing numbers of them are young people. Mental anguish is hard on your health. People suffering from depression have three times the risk of experiencing a cardiac event. In fact, depression affects the entire body. It weakens the immune system, increasing susceptibility to viral infections and, over time, possibly even some kinds of cancer—a strong argument for early treatment of depression. It interferes with sleep, adding to feelings of lethargy, compounding problems of focus and concentration, and generally undermining health. Those suffering from depression also experience higher rates of diabetes and osteoporosis. Sometimes depression manifests as a persistent low mood, a condition known as dysthymia. It is usually marked by years-long periods of low energy, low self-esteem, and little ability to experience pleasure.
In the 1950s and '60s, health care professionals divided depression into two types, endogenous and neurotic. Endogenous means that the depression comes from within the body, perhaps of genetic origin, or comes out of nowhere. Neurotic or reactive depression has a clear environmental precipitating factor, such as the death of a spouse, or other significant loss, such as the loss of a job. In the 1970s and '80s, the focus of attention shifted from the cause of depression to its effects on the afflicted people. That is to say, whatever the cause in a particular case, what are the symptoms and impaired functions that experts can agree make up a depressive illness? Although experts sometimes dispute these issues, most agree on the following:
In a structured psychotherapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the treatment approach for anxiety and depression can vary slightly. Naturally, CBT for these issues will teach you how to work with unhelpful thought traps. And, for either problem, CBT is likely to ask that you do more behaviorally. For anxiety, however, this is to minimize avoidant behavior and to help you disconfirm a feared consequence. For depression, this is to help you experience positive emotion, a surge in energy (even if briefly), or another type of pleasant interaction with the world (the theory being that activating behavior, even when, or especially when your energy or mood is low can result in some type of positive reward).
It sometimes happens that a person who starts taking an anti-depressant will start exhibiting the signs of manic mood. In such cases, it's believed that the person had a latent, or hidden case of bipolar disorder which only became evident when the depressive mood was relieved by medication. Jane Pauley, the television reporter and talk show hostess, has written of her personal experience with this problem.

Some symptoms of depression as described above are normal after any kind of loss including the onset of a disability or severe illness. If you have had these symptoms for a long time it may be helpful to talk with a mental health professional. It is also helpful to talk to someone if you have other symptoms such as feeling guilty or worthless, or if sadness interferes with the ability to do important life tasks (take medication; go to therapies, work or school).

Do your best to not be this way. Instead, choose to accept your diagnosis and to take the medications and other therapies that have been prescribed for you regularly. Make it a point to talk with your doctor when you are not getting relief as expected or new symptoms develop so that your doctor has a chance to address these concerns. Tell the people that you are close to that you are clinically depressed and ask for their help in overcoming the problem. For instance, your friends can help you resist the urge to withdraw and isolate, and give you feedback as to how you appear to be doing both physically and emotionally. Allow the time necessary for medication therapies to pass before you decide that they aren't working. In general, accept your diagnosis and cooperate as best you can with the people who are trying to help you recover.
Believed to be caused in part by a malfunction of brain chemistry, generalized anxiety is not the normal apprehension one feels before taking a test or awaiting the outcome of a biopsy. A person with an anxiety disorder suffers from what President Franklin Roosevelt called "fear itself." For a reason that is only partially known, the brain's fight-or-flight mechanism becomes activated, even when no real threat exists. Being chronically anxious is like being stalked by an imaginary tiger. The feeling of being in danger never goes away.

Depression can have a significant impact on the structure and function of many parts of the brain. This can result in many negative consequences. For example, people with severe depression are at higher risk of suffering from anxiety, chronic depression, other emotional issues, or having more medical problems or chronic pain. The trouble thinking (cognitive problems) that depression sufferers may experience can persist even after the illness resolves. People with a chronic illness, such as diabetes and heart disease, who also have depression tend to have worse outcome of their medical illness.
Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.
Accept Your Diagnosis. Many people (particularly men) have difficulty accepting that they are depressed. They may feel ashamed or weak, or otherwise believe that if they just "push through" they can handle it themselves. This is not a terribly useful or productive approach for people to take as it tends to set them up to sabotage their therapies. Such patients may "forget" to take medications on schedule, or decline to tell anyone who cares for them what they are dealing with.

It is important to remember that many of these symptoms can occur with illnesses such as brain injury or stroke or even less serious problems like a cold or flu, but may not indicate depression. Even if you have trouble sleeping, lack of appetite and problems concentrating, there is no reason to be concerned about a separate mental health condition unless you also feel sad most of the time or rarely find enjoyment in life.

The next time you're feeling terrible about yourself, use logic as a natural depression treatment. You might feel like no one likes you, but is there real evidence for that? You might feel like the most worthless person on the planet, but is that really likely? It takes practice, but in time you can beat back those negative thoughts before they get out of control.
Just as there are many different experiences of anxiety and depression, there are a variety of options for treatments and coping techniques to help manage symptoms.  The recommendations in this section take an integrative mental health approach, which incorporates health-promoting lifestyle changes; evidence-based holistic therapies and healing practices; and mainstream interventions, including psychosocial therapies and the judicious use of prescription medication. We cover each of these areas in detail--click the links or see the menu on the left for more information. 
See a depression expert. It's important to talk with a trained professional during your treatment. Although psychologists cannot prescribe medication, they are well-trained in psychiatric assessment and psychotherapy. You can work with a psychologist while taking antidepressants prescribed by your regular doctor, or you can see a psychiatrist for both your depression medication and talk therapy. Try to find someone who has a lot of experience helping people with treatment-resistant depression. Mood disorder experts can often be found through university-based hospitals or organizations such as the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology, the American Psychiatric Association, or the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) "Find a Pro" online search engine.

As a matter of fact, many researchers think that antidepressant medications should work more quickly — that people shouldn’t have to take a medication for weeks before they see some improvement. Especially because the most common antidepressants cause short- and long-term side effects — all antidepressants can produce psychological side effects, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) can cause heart problems, and SSRI and SNRI medications cause issues ranging from nausea to weight gain and low sex drive, among others. Alternatives and better options are a good thing.
Interestingly, the researchers propose that the way Botox may work is by preventing people from frowning. The facial feedback hypothesis — which dates back to Charles Darwin — proposes that using the muscles in your face can have an effect on your emotions. In other words, that smiling can make you happier, and frowning can make you sadder. Botox temporarily paralyzes the muscles that control frowning — and in effect, that might play a role in turning that frown upside down.
The future is very bright for the treatment of depression. In response to the customs and practices of their patients from a variety of cultures, physicians are becoming more sensitized to and knowledgeable about natural remedies. Vitamins and other nutritional supplements like vitamin D, folate, and vitamin B12 may be useful in alleviating mild depression when used alone or more severe degrees of depression when used in combination with an antidepressant medication. Another intervention from alternative medicine is St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum). This herbal remedy is helpful for some individuals who suffer from mild depression. However, St. John's wort being an herbal remedy is no guarantee against developing complications. For example, its chemical similarity to many antidepressants disqualifies it from being given to people who are taking those medications.
With the ECT procedure, a brain stimulation therapy, a physician passes an electric current through the brain to produce controlled convulsions (seizures). ECT is useful for certain patients, particularly for those who cannot take or have not responded to a number of antidepressants, have severe depression, and/or are at a high risk for suicide. ECT often is effective in cases where trials of a number of antidepressant medications do not provide sufficient relief of symptoms. This procedure probably works, as previously mentioned, by a massive neurochemical release in the brain due to the controlled seizure. Often highly effective, ECT relieves depression within one to two weeks after beginning treatments in many people. After ECT, some patients will continue to have maintenance ECT, while others will return to antidepressant medications or have a combination of both treatments.

Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to take the steps that will help you to feel better. But while overcoming depression isn’t quick or easy, it’s far from impossible. You can’t just will yourself to “snap out of it,” but you do have more control than you realize—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key is to start small and build from there. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there by making positive choices for yourself each day.


You may have heard about an herbal medicine called St. John's wort. Although it is a top-selling botanical product, the FDA has not approved its use as an over-the-counter or prescription medicine for depression, and there are serious concerns about its safety (it should never be combined with a prescription antidepressant) and effectiveness. Do not use St. John’s wort before talking to your health care provider. Other natural products sold as dietary supplements, including omega-3 fatty acids and S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), remain under study but have not yet been proven safe and effective for routine use. For more information on herbal and other complementary approaches and current research, please visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health website.
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