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.
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Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. They are highly effective and generally cause fewer side effects than the other antidepressants. SSRIs help to alleviate symptoms of depression by blocking the reabsorption or reuptake of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter (chemical) that is used by brain cells to communicate. As SSRIs mainly affect the levels of serotonin and not levels of other neurotransmitters, they are referred to as “selective.”
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.
If you have such thoughts, and find them disturbing, it's a good idea to discuss them with a qualified therapist. People often want to keep these thoughts to themselves, because they feel ashamed of them, and worry that a therapist will over-react and want to hospitalize them. However, these thoughts are a common part of anxiety disorders, and a therapist who is well versed in the treatment of anxiety disorders will probably be able to evaluate these thoughts and come to a realistic understanding of what they mean and don't mean. So review these with a therapist, in the same way you would review all the other symptoms you experience.
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.
Depression is different from anxiety. Rather than feeling anxious and nervous, feelings of gloom and melancholy overwhelm. Feeling sad or down after experiencing a loss or disappointment is an emotion that everyone feels at one time or another. But when low mood and sadness is severe and lasts for long periods of time, it could be due to depression.
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:
Measures of depression as an emotional disorder include, but are not limited to: Beck Depression Inventory-11 and the 9-item depression scale in the Patient Health Questionnaire. Both of these measures are psychological tests that asks on personal questions of the participant, and have mostly been used to measure the severity of depression. Several studies, however, have used these measures to also determine healthy individuals who are not suffering from depression as a mental disorder, but as an occasional mood disorder. This is substantiated by the fact that depression as an emotional disorder displays similar symptoms to minimal depression and low levels of mental disorders such as Major Depressive Disorder, thus researchers were able to use the same measure interchangeably. In terms of the scale, participants scoring between 0-13 and 0-4 respectively were considered healthy individuals. Another measure of depressed mood would be the IWP multi-affect indicator. It is a psychological test that indicates various emotions, such as enthusiasm and depression, and asks for the degree of the emotions that the participants have felt in the past week. There are studies that have used lesser items from the IWP Multi-affect Indicator which was then scaled down to daily levels to measure the daily levels of depression as a emotional disorder.
In major depressive disorder, these types of thoughts are persistent most of the day, more days than not for weeks on end. If an individual vacillates between a very low and very high mood state, then a diagnosis of bipolar disorder may apply. However, for any variant of a mood disorder, the low mood state is likely to be characterized by the type of thinking described above.
TCAs are associated with a number of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) effects such as orthostatic hypotension and abnormal heart rates and rhythms. Orthostatic hypotension may lead to dizziness, falls, and fractures. Orthostatic hypotension may be managed by reducing or discontinuing the TCA dose, increasing salt intake, or treatment with steroids.
After years of working hard at your job each day, you’ve just been laid off. You feel sad, tired and emotionally drained. The last thing you feel like doing is getting out of bed in the morning. This sadness is a natural part of being human and feeling this way for a few days is normal. In fact, many people hear people say “I’m depressed” in their day-to-day life when they are talking about that low feeling that we can all have from time to time. But if these sad feelings last for more than a couple of weeks and you start noticing that it’s affecting your life in a big way, you may be suffering from an illness called depression.
Perimenopause, which is the time of life immediately before and after menopause, can last as long as 10 years. While perimenopause and menopause are normal stages of life, perimenopause increases the risk of depression during that time. Also, women who have had depression in the past are five times more likely to develop major depression during perimenopause.
Doctors at NIMH are dedicated to mental health research, including clinical trials of possible new treatments as well as studies to understand the causes and effects of depression. The studies take place at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland and require regular visits. After the initial phone interview, you will come to an appointment at the clinic and meet with one of our clinicians. Find NIMH studies currently recruiting participants with depression by visiting Join a Research Study: Depression.