Some types of depression run in families, indicating an inheritable biological vulnerability to depression. This seems to be the case, especially with bipolar disorder. Researchers have studied families in which members of each generation develop bipolar disorder. The investigators found that those with the illness have a somewhat different genetic makeup than those who do not become ill. However, the reverse is not true. That is, not everybody with the genetic makeup that causes vulnerability to bipolar disorder will develop the illness. Apparently, additional factors, like a stressful environment, are involved in its onset and protective factors, like good support from family and friends, are involved in its prevention.
Medication may be right for you if depression is interfering with your ability to function in an important part of your life—work, school, or in your relationships, for example. However, many people use antidepressants when therapy, exercise, or self-help strategies would work just as well or better—minus the unpleasant side effects. Even if you decide to take medication, it’s a good idea to pursue therapy and lifestyle changes that can help you get to the bottom of your underlying issues and develop the tools to beat depression for good. See Coping with Depression and Depression Treatment
Maybe. Some medicines, such as some types of antidepressants, may make it more difficult for you to get pregnant, but more research is needed.15 Talk to your doctor about other treatments for depression that don’t involve medicine if you are trying to get pregnant. For example, a type of talk therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps women with depression.16 This type of therapy has little to no risk for women trying to get pregnant. During CBT, you work with a mental health professional to explore why you are depressed and train yourself to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Certain mental health care professionals specialize in depression related to infertility.
Exercise and pleasurable activities are natural ways to improve mood. Exercise increases the levels of endorphins which can elevate mood. Foods high in omega-3-fatty acids may increase serotonin levels in the brain and contribute to relieving depression. During winter months some people may suffer from seasonal depression. Increasing exposure to light alleviates seasonal depression.
It is not uncommon to experience occasional and brief periods of feeling down and anxious. These episodes are not usually a cause for concern, and once passed, you are able to resume life as usual. But, if you suffer from depression and anxiety and your symptoms are present for more than two weeks, frequently recur, or are interfering with how you live your life, it’s time to get help.
Antidepressants can have central and peripheral anticholinergic effects, as well as sedative effects, and can block the active reuptake of norepinephrine (NE), serotonin (5-HT), and dopamine. SSRIs are metabolized via the cytochrome P-450 system and may have drug interactions on that basis. The degree of enzyme inhibition varies among SSRIs. Effects on blood levels and bioavailability of coadministered drugs, as well as pharmacodynamic interactions, account for most clinically significant SSRI-drug interactions.
Once diagnosed, a person with depression can be treated a number of ways. The most common treatments are medication and psychotherapy. Many studies show that cognitive behavioral psychotherapy is highly effective, alone or in combination with drug therapy. Psychotherapy addresses the thinking patterns that precipitate depression, and studies show that it prevents recurrence. Drug therapy is often helpful in relieving symptoms, such as severe anxiety, so that people can engage in meaningful psychotherapy.
When taking these medications‚ it is important to follow the instructions on how much to take. Some people start to feel better a few days after starting the medication‚ but it can take up to 4 weeks to feel the most benefit. Antidepressants work well and are safe for most people‚ but it is still important to talk with your doctor if you have side effects. Side effects usually do not get in the way of daily life‚ and they often go away as your body adjusts to the medication.
While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.
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.
The following information is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis of major depression and cannot take the place of seeing a mental health professional. If you think you are depressed‚ talk with your doctor or a mental health professional immediately. This is especially important if your symptoms are getting worse or affecting your daily activities.
Other more recently introduced types of brain stimulation therapies used to treat medicine-resistant depression include repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). Other types of brain stimulation treatments are under study. You can learn more about these therapies on the NIMH Brain Stimulation Therapies webpage.