The so-called "baby blues" happen in many women in the days right after childbirth. A new mother can have sudden mood swings, such as feeling very happy and then feeling very sad or angry. She may cry for no reason and can feel impatient, irritable, restless, anxious, lonely, and sad. The baby blues may last only a few hours or as long as one to two weeks after delivery. The baby blues do not always require treatment from a health care professional. Often, sharing childcare duties, maintaining contacts with loved ones, joining a support group of new moms, or talking with other moms helps.

In general, the severe depressive illnesses, particularly those that are recurrent, will require antidepressant medications, phototherapy for winter seasonal depression (or ECT or TMS in severe cases) along with psychotherapy for the best outcome. If a person suffers one major depressive episode, he or she has up to about a 75% chance of a second episode. If the individual suffers two major depressive episodes, the chance of a third episode is about 80%. If the person suffers three episodes, the likelihood of a fourth episode is 90%-95%. Therefore, after a first depressive episode, it may make sense for the patient to come off medication gradually. However, after a second and certainly after a third episode, most clinicians will have a patient remain on a maintenance dosage of the medication for an extended period of years, if not permanently.
Some 16 million Americans a year struggle with depression, an illness that comes in many forms—from major depression to dysthymia and seasonal affective disorder. In addition, depressive episodes are features of bipolar disorder. Depression is an illness that increasingly afflicts people worldwide, interfering with concentration, motivation, and many other aspects of everyday functioning. It is a complex disorder, involving many systems of the body, including the immune system, either as cause or effect. It disrupts sleep and it interferes with appetite, in some cases causing weight loss, in others weight gain. Because of its complexity, a full understanding of depression has been elusive.
Persistent depressive disorder, formerly referred to as dysthymia, is a less severe but usually more long-lasting type of depression (dysphoric) compared to major depression. It involves long-term (chronic) symptoms that do not disable but prevent the affected person from functioning at "full steam" or from feeling good. Sometimes, people with persistent depressive disorder also experience episodes of major depression. Double-depression is the name for this combination of the two types of depression.
Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat.
The SSRIs work by keeping serotonin present in high concentrations in the synapses. These drugs do this by preventing the reuptake of serotonin back into the sending nerve cell. The reuptake of serotonin is responsible for turning off the production of new serotonin. Therefore, the serotonin message keeps on coming through. This, in turn, helps arouse (activate) cells that have been deactivated by depression, thereby relieving the depressed person's symptoms. SSRIs have fewer side effects than the tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). SSRIs do not interact with the chemical tyramine in foods, as do the MAOIs, and therefore do not require the dietary restrictions of the MAOIs. Also, SSRIs do not cause orthostatic hypotension (sudden drop in blood pressure when sitting up or standing) and are less likely to predispose to heart-rhythm disturbances like the TCAs do. Therefore, SSRIs are often the first-line treatment for depression. Examples of SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), fluvoxamine (Luvox), escitalopram (Lexapro), vortioxetine (Trintellix), and vilazodone (Viibryd).
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.
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. 
Many people living with high-functioning anxiety and depression are described as Type-A personalities or overachievers. They often excel at work or appear to be “super mom/dad” and seem to have it all under control. Other people may notice signs of high-functioning anxiety and depression but characterize the behaviors as “anal retentive” quirks or bad habits. And, many times, signs and symptoms of high-functioning depression and anxiety that others observe are given positive attributes, rather than being seen for what they are. For instance, anxiety and worry may be expressed as dwelling on minor details and viewed as perfectionism. What observers generally do not see are the private struggles with stress, sleeplessness, digestive issues, self-criticism, or feelings of sadness and gloom that had to be overcome to attain achievements.

Antidepressants are usually taken daily. The goal in the first few weeks and months is to relieve the symptoms and, if possible, make the depression go away. Once that has been achieved, the treatment is continued for at least four to nine months. This continuation therapy is necessary to stop the symptoms from coming back. The medication is sometimes taken for longer to prevent relapses. The duration of treatment also depends on how the symptoms develop over time and whether there is an increased risk of relapse. Some people take antidepressants for several years.


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.
Left untreated, depression can be a debilitating illness for individuals and their families. Often, symptoms are not recognized for their severity and can worsen, and severe depression may lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. Common treatments for depression include individual and group therapy, and medications as appropriate. Other treatments may include TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) and ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), both of which have been found to have profound effects on individuals with depression, especially for those who have not found relief in symptoms through other treatment methods.
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).
Although no one knows exactly why, depression and anxiety often occur together. In one study, 85% of those with major depression were also diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and 35% had symptoms of panic disorder. Other anxiety disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Because they so often go hand in hand, anxiety and depression are considered the fraternal twins of mood disorders.

The new world of pharmacogenetics holds the promise of actually keeping the genes responsible for depression turned off so as to avoid the illnesses completely. Also, by studying genes, we are learning more about the matching of patients with treatment. This kind of information can tell us which patients do well on which types of drugs and psychotherapy regimens.


Despite the popularity of social media platforms and the rapidity with which they’ve inserted themselves into nearly all facets of our lives, there’s a remarkable lack of clear data about how they affect us personally: our behaviors, our social relationships, and our mental health. In many cases, the information that’s available isn’t pretty. Studies have linked the use of social media to depression, anxiety, poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem, inattention, and hyperactivity — often in teens and adolescents.

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.
Another potential complication is that chronic high-functioning anxiety and depression can lead to a variety of other medical and mental health issues when left untreated. Research has shown a correlation between mental health disorder and chronic illness. Evidence points toward changes in the way certain body systems function when mental health disorders are present. Some changes include fluctuations in heart rate and circulation, increased inflammation in the body, metabolic changes, and irregularities with stress hormones. There are also increased risks of diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and substance abuse. Getting treatment quickly can help prevent high-functioning anxiety and depression from getting worse, or developing into additional medical and mental health issues.
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.

People with substance use problems—There is a direct link between depression and problem substance use. Many people who are experiencing depression turn to drugs or alcohol for comfort. Overuse of substances can actually add to depression in some people. This is because some substances like alcohol, heroin and prescription sleeping pills lower brain activity, making you feel more depressed. Even drugs that stimulate your brain like cocaine and speed can make you more depressed after other effects wear off. Other factors, like family history, trauma or other life circumstances may make a person vulnerable to both alcohol/drug problems and depression.
Desipramine inhibits the reuptake of serotonin and, more potently, norepinephrine at the presynaptic neuronal membrane. It is a commonly used TCA that is relatively less sedating and tends to have fewer anticholinergic and antihistaminic adverse effects than other TCAs. It is sometimes used for off-label indications such as peripheral neuropathy and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Another type of depression is related to changes in the length of days or seasonality. This type of depression is called Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). People with SAD suffer the symptoms of a Major Depressive Disorder only during a specific time of year, usually winter. This appears to be related to the shorter days of winter, and the lack of sunlight in many parts of the country.
From 1991-2006, the suicide rate was consistently higher among males. Suicide rates declined among both sexes from 1991-2000; the rate among males decreased from 24.64 to 20.67 suicides per 100,000 and 5.48 to 4.62 suicides per 100,000 among females. From 2000-2006, however, the suicide rates gradually increased among females. Note: All rates are age-adjusted to the standard 2000 population. Rates based on less than 20 deaths are statistically unreliable. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National suicide statistics at a glance: Trends in suicide rates among persons ages 10 years and older, by sex, United States, 1991-2006. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/statistics/trends01.html. Accessed: May 5, 2010.

For example, abruptly stopping an SSRI such as paroxetine can cause dizziness, nausea, flu-like symptoms, body aches, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, and vivid dreams. These symptoms typically occur within days of abrupt cessation, and can last one to two weeks (up to 21 days). Among the SSRIs, paroxetine and fluvoxamine cause more pronounced discontinuation symptoms than fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram, escitalopram, vortioxetine, and vilazodone. Some patients experience discontinuation symptoms despite gradual tapering of the SSRI. Abrupt cessation of venlafaxine, duloxetine, desvenlafaxine, or levomilnacipran can cause discontinuation symptoms similar to those of SSRIs.
Another brain stimulation therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) involves a physician passing an electrical current through an insulated coil that is placed on the surface of the depression sufferer's scalp. That induces a brief magnetic field that can change the electrical flow of the brain that is effective in easing symptoms of depression or anxiety. TMS does not require anesthesia; doctors perform TMS for a few minutes per session, five times per week over the course of four to six weeks. Side effects are usually mild and fade quickly, including scalp discomfort or headaches. It is unusual for side effects to be severe enough to cause the recipient to stop treatment prematurely. Serious side effects are rare, including worsened depression, suicidal thoughts, or actions.
The second most important way to help someone with depression is to offer emotional support. This support involves understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement to the depression sufferer. Engage the depressed person in conversation and listen carefully. Do not disparage feelings expressed, but point out realities and offer hope. Do not ignore remarks about suicide. Always take them seriously and report them to the depressed person's therapist.
suggests exercise can be an effective treatment for depression because it’s a natural mood booster and releases feel-good hormones. However, for some people, exercise or a gym can trigger anxiety and fear. If that’s the case for you, look for more natural ways to move, such as walking around your neighborhood or looking for an online exercise video you can do at home.
Venlafaxine and its active metabolite inhibit neuronal serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake. They are weak inhibitors of dopamine reuptake. In addition, it causes beta-receptor down-regulation. Venlafaxine is sometimes prescribed for non–FDA-approved indications, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, hot flashes, neuropathic pain, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Buspirone is marketed as an antianxiety medication; however, it may have antidepressant effects at doses above 45 mg/day. The antidepressant effects may increase when buspirone is used in combination with SSRIs and TCAs in patients with treatment-resistant depression. Buspirone is a partial 5-HT1A agonist with serotonergic and some dopaminergic effects in the CNS. It has anxiolytic effects but may take up to 2-3 weeks for full efficacy.
In choosing an antidepressant, the doctor will take into account the patient's specific symptoms of depression, as well as his or her age, other medical conditions, and medication side effects. Of particular importance is that children and adolescents continue to use antidepressant medication with caution because of uncommon instances in which minors become acutely worse instead of better while receiving this treatment.
^ Jeronimus BF, Kotov R, Riese H, Ormel J, et al. (October 2016). "Neuroticism's prospective association with mental disorders halves after adjustment for baseline symptoms and psychiatric history, but the adjusted association hardly decays with time: a meta-analysis on 59 longitudinal/prospective studies with 443 313 participants". Psychological Medicine. 46 (14): 2883–2906. doi:10.1017/S0033291716001653. PMID 27523506.
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.
For some people, yes. Researchers think that exercise may work better than no treatment at all to treat depression.13 They also think that regular exercise can lower your risk of getting depression and help many depression symptoms get better.14 Researchers do not know whether exercise works as well as therapy or medicine to treat depression.13 People with depression often find it very difficult to exercise, even though they know it will help make them feel better. Walking is a good way to begin exercising if you haven’t exercised recently.
It may be dangerous to take St. John’s wort if you also take other medicines. St. John’s wort can make many medicines not work at all or may cause dangerous or life-threatening side effects. The medicines used to treat heart disease, HIV, depression, seizures, certain cancers, and organ transplant rejection may not work or may have dangerous side effects if taken with St. John’s wort. St. John’s wort may also make birth control pills not work, which increases the chance you will get pregnant when you don’t want to.12 It is crucial that you tell your doctor or nurse if you take St. John’s wort.

If you have have experienced depression and bipolar disorder, you will be able to track your progress, share information, ask questions, and evaluate your treatments. How? Become a participant in the MoodNetwork. Participants will also be contributing to the largest pool of data ever collected about mood disorders, which will lead to evaluating treatments and helping to set priorities for future research studies.


Some people with milder forms of depression get better after treatment with therapy. People with moderate to severe depression might need a type of medicine called an antidepressant in addition to therapy. Antidepressants change the levels of certain chemicals in your brain. It may take a few weeks or months before you begin to feel a change in your mood. There are different types of antidepressant medicines, and some work better than others for certain people. Some people get better only with both treatments — therapy and antidepressants.
×