Interpersonal and cognitive/behavioral therapies are two of the short-term psychotherapies that research has shown to be helpful for some forms of depression. Interpersonal therapists focus on the patient's disturbed personal relationships that both cause and exacerbate the depression. Cognitive/behavioral therapists help patients change the negative styles of thinking and behaving that are often associated with depression. A form of cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) tends to focus on intensive, simultaneous acceptance of the depression sufferer's abilities, while motivating emotionally healthy changes using a highly structured approach. This form of therapy treats severely or chronically depressed people. Psychodynamic therapies sometimes treat depression. They focus on resolving the patient's internal psychological conflicts rooted in childhood. Long-term psychodynamic therapies are particularly important if there seems to be a lifelong history and pattern of inadequate ways of coping (maladaptive coping mechanisms) by using negative or self-injurious behavior.

Self-help—For mild depression, or when moderate or severe depression begins to improve with other treatments, there are some things you can do on your own to help keep you feeling better. Regular exercise, eating well, managing stress, spending time with friends and family, spirituality, and monitoring your use of alcohol and other drugs can help keep depression from getting worse or coming back. Talking to your doctor, asking questions, and feeling in charge of your own health are also very important. Always talk to your doctor about what you’re doing on your own.
Exercise. As mentioned above, regular vigorous physical exercise is thought to have an antidepressant effect. Exercise offers many other benefits as well, including general improvements to your health and an opportunity to socialize (e.g., in a gym or with teammates), or to be alone (e.g., on a bike or solitary hike). Exercise is also a great way to distract yourself from your thoughts as the need to attend to the physical demands of what you are doing tend to drive out self-critical thinking (at least for a little while). Check with your doctor before starting a new physical exercise program just to make sure your body is up to handling it.
The most commonly diagnosed form of depression is Major Depressive Disorder. In 2015, around 16.1 million adults aged 18 years or older in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year, which represented 6.7 percent of all American adults. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States among people ages 15-44.  View the NIMH website for statistics from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
Many forms of psychotherapy are effective at helping depressed individuals, including some short-term (10-20 weeks) therapies. Talking therapies (psychotherapies) help patients gain insight into their problems and resolve them through verbal give-and-take with the therapist. Behavioral therapists help patients learn how to obtain more satisfaction and rewards through their own actions. These therapists conduct behavior therapy to help patients to unlearn the behavioral patterns that may contribute to their depression.
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.
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or SNRIs are the newest class of antidepressants. SNRIs work by increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine that are active in the brain. Serotonin and norepinephrine are produced by nerves and released into the surrounding tissues where they can attach to nearby receptors on other nerves, thereby stimulating the other nerves. The released serotonin and norepinephrine then are taken up and released again by the nerves that produce them. SNRIs block the uptake ("reuptake") of the serotonin and norepinephrine so that more of the serotonin and norepinephrine are free in the tissues surrounding the nerves.
Be patient. Once you and your doctor have selected an antidepressant, you may start to see improvement in a few weeks, but it may take six or more weeks for it to be fully effective. With some antidepressants, you can take the full dosage immediately. With others, you may need to gradually increase your dose. Talk to your doctor or therapist about coping with depression symptoms as you wait for the antidepressant to take effect.
Invite the depressed person for walks, outings, and to the movies and other activities. Be gently insistent if the depressed individual refuses your invitation. Encourage participation in activities that once gave pleasure, such as hobbies, sports, or religious or cultural activities. However, do not push the depressed person to undertake too much too soon. The depressed person needs company and diversion, but too many demands can increase feelings of failure and exhaustion.

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) were one of the first approved antidepressants. Although they are effective, they have been replaced by newer antidepressants that generally cause fewer side effects. Like SNRIs, TCAs work by blocking the reabsorption of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Additionally, they block muscarinic M1, histamine H1, and alpha-adrenergic receptors.
No matter how hopeless things may feel today, people can get better with treatment — and most do. The key to successful treatment is usually dependent upon the person recognizing there’s a problem, seeking out treatment for it, and then following the treatment plan agreed to. This can be far more challenging for someone who’s depressed than it sounds, and patience is a core necessity when starting treatment.
What we do know is certain medications that alter the levels of norepinephrine or serotonin can alleviate the symptoms of depression. Some medicines that affect both of these neurochemical systems appear to perform even better or faster. Other medications that treat depression primarily affect the other neurochemical systems. One of the most powerful treatments for depression, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), is certainly not specific to any particular neurotransmitter system. Rather, ECT, by causing a seizure, produces a generalized brain activity that probably releases massive amounts of all of the neurochemicals.
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.
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.
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.
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.

More than 1in 6 Americans take a psychiatric drug (such as an antidepressant or a sedative). according to a 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), which gathered information on the cost and use of health care in the United States. Antidepressants were the most common type of psychiatric drug in the survey, with 12 percent of adults reporting that they filled prescriptions for these drugs, the study said.
Try to notice good things. Depression affects a person's thoughts, making everything seem dismal, negative, and hopeless. If depression has you noticing only the negative, make an effort to notice the good things in life. Try to notice one thing, then try to think of one more. Consider your strengths, gifts, or blessings. Most of all, don't forget to be patient with yourself. Depression takes time to heal.

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.


Total openness is important. You should talk to your doctor about all of your symptoms, important milestones in your life and any history of abuse or trauma. Also tell your doctor about past history of depression or other emotional symptoms in yourself or family members, medical history, medications you are taking — prescribed or over-the-counter, how depression has affected your daily life and whether you ever think about suicide. More
The presence of maternal-fetal stress is another risk factor for depression. It seems that maternal stress during pregnancy can increase the chance that the child will be prone to depression as an adult, particularly if there is a genetic vulnerability. Researchers believe that the mother's circulating stress hormones can influence the development of the fetus' brain during pregnancy. This altered fetal brain development occurs in ways that predispose the child to the risk of depression as an adult. Further research is still necessary to clarify how this happens. Again, this situation shows the complex interaction between genetic vulnerability and environmental stress, in this case, the stress of the mother on the fetus.
The pattern of symptoms may fit a pattern within any type of depression. For example, a person who suffers from persistent depressive disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or any other illness that includes depression can have prominently anxious, melancholic, mixed, psychotic, or atypical features. Such features can have a significant impact on the approach to treatment that may be most effective. For example, for the person whose depression includes prominent anxiety, a focus of treatment is more likely to be effective if the sufferer's pattern of repeatedly going over thoughts is a major focus of treatment, versus an individual with melancholic features, who may need more intensive support in the morning when the intensity of depression tends to be worse, or versus a person with atypical features, whose tendency toward weight gain and excessive sleeping may require nutritional counseling to address dietary issues.
Several drugs of abuse can cause or exacerbate depression, whether in intoxication, withdrawal, and from chronic use. These include alcohol, sedatives (including prescription benzodiazepines), opioids (including prescription pain killers and illicit drugs such as heroin), stimulants (such as cocaine and amphetamines), hallucinogens, and inhalants.[17]
Bennabi D, Yrondi A, Charpeaud T, Genty JB, Destouches S, et al. Clinical guidelines for the management of depression with specific comorbid psychiatric conditions French recommendations from experts (the French Association for Biological Psychiatry and Neuropsychopharmacology and the fondation FondaMental). BMC Psychiatry. 2019 Jan 30. 19 (1):50. [Medline].
People living with high-functioning anxiety and depression usually do not fit the stereotype of either disorder. In fact, many appear to be overachievers. The anxiety can serve as an energizer, driving the person towards achieving his or her goals. It’s later, when in private, that the symptoms of depression tend to emerge. Feelings of self-doubt and self-criticism, fatigue, helplessness or guilt, moodiness, and a desire to avoid interaction with others become intensified. Because the stereotypical image of depression or anxiety doesn’t match up with what people living with high-functioning anxiety and depression “look like,” it is hard to spot, even for sufferers to recognize in themselves. However, the symptoms of high-functioning anxiety and depression are the same as for non-high functioning anxiety and depression. The main difference is the ability to suppress or diminish the appearance of disruptions in life activities.

Women—Depression is diagnosed twice as much in women as it is in men. Some reasons for this difference include life-cycle changes, hormonal changes, higher rates of childhood abuse or relationship violence, and social pressures. Women are usually more comfortable seeking help for their problems than men which likely means that depression in men may be highly under-reported. Men generally feel emotionally numb or angry when they are depressed whereas women usually feel more emotional.


Medication treatment of anxiety is generally safe and effective and is often used in conjunction with therapy. Medication may be a short-term or long-term treatment option, depending on severity of symptoms, other medical conditions, and other individual circumstances. However, it often takes time and patience to find the drug that works best for you.

Additionally, the symptoms must last for two or more weeks and cause significant disruption of life functions. But to be diagnosed with dysthymia, a person need only have two of the recognized diagnostic symptoms, one of which is a mood that is persistently dark or gloomy, and the symptoms must be present on most days for at least two years. It is possible to have periods of time that are “symptom free,” but the break cannot last longer than two months.


Kessler RC, Birnbaum HG, Shahly V, Bromet E, Hwang I, McLaughlin KA, Sampson N, Andrade LH, de Girolamo G, Demyttenaere K, Haro JM, Karam AN, Kostyuchenko S, Kovess V, Lara C, Levinson D, Matschinger H, Nakane Y, Browne MO, Ormel J, Posada-Villa J, Sagar R, Stein DJ. Age Differences in the Prevalence and Co-Morbidity of DSM-IV Major Depressive Episodes: Results From the WHO World Mental Health Survey InitiativeExternal. Depression and Anxiety 2010;27(4):351–64 [accessed 2018 Mar 22].
Following a major life-changing event like a disabling illness, it is normal to feel a great deal of stress. Stress can build up over time and can lead to anxiety. Anxiety can be a response to a specific situation such as learning to walk all over again; it can also be more generalized such as not wanting to leave the house after being discharged from the hospital.
Some of the classic "adult" symptoms of depression may also be more or less obvious during childhood compared to the actual emotions of sadness, such as a change in eating or sleeping patterns. (Has the child or teen lost or gained weight or failed to gain appropriate weight for their age in recent weeks or months? Does he or she seem more tired than usual? Does the minor have a sense of low self-worth?)
Patients generally tolerate SSRIs well, and side effects are usually mild. The most common side effects are nausea and other stomach upset, diarrhea, agitation, insomnia, and headache. However, these side effects generally go away within the first month of SSRI use. Some patients experience sexual side effects, such as decreased sexual desire (decreased libido), delayed orgasm, or an inability to have an orgasm. Sexual side effects occur less often with newer SSRIs like vortioxetine and vilazodone, compared to the older medications in this category. For those patients, especially for whom anxiety is a prominent symptom of depression, the addition of buspirone may help enhance the effectiveness (augment) the effect of the SSRI while decreasing or eliminating sexual side effects. Uncommonly, some patients experience tremors, hair loss, or gradual weight gain with SSRIs. The so-called serotonergic (meaning caused by serotonin) syndrome is a serious neurologic condition associated with the use of SSRIs, usually when given in high doses or in combination with another SSRI. High fevers, seizures, and heart-rhythm disturbances characterize serotonergic syndrome. This condition is very rare and tends to occur only in very ill psychiatric patients taking multiple psychiatric medications.

A type of mild to severe depression that typically sets in as the hours of daylight wane in the fall, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) afflicts as many as 6 percent of Americans. Women are particularly at risk, experiencing SAD four times more often than men, as are people who have a relative with depression. People who live far from the equator tend to experience SAD in greater numbers — 9 percent of Alaskans versus 1 percent of Floridians, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.


The pattern of symptoms may fit a pattern within any type of depression. For example, a person who suffers from persistent depressive disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or any other illness that includes depression can have prominently anxious, melancholic, mixed, psychotic, or atypical features. Such features can have a significant impact on the approach to treatment that may be most effective. For example, for the person whose depression includes prominent anxiety, a focus of treatment is more likely to be effective if the sufferer's pattern of repeatedly going over thoughts is a major focus of treatment, versus an individual with melancholic features, who may need more intensive support in the morning when the intensity of depression tends to be worse, or versus a person with atypical features, whose tendency toward weight gain and excessive sleeping may require nutritional counseling to address dietary issues.
Bipolar Disorder: Formerly known as Manic Depression or Manic Depressive Disorder. While different from depression, bipolar disorder is often included in discussions around depressive disorders as it involves episodes of extreme lows similar to major depression. Someone with bipolar disorder, however, will swing in the opposite direction towards mania or extreme highs.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

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