Back pain and muscle spasms. We've all experienced these symptoms from time to time. Lower back pain often comes from sitting at the computer too long. Many people have strained muscles along the spine from lifting a heavy object. But when the aches and spasms are vague -- and not related to any injury -- they may be symptoms of depression or other medical conditions. It's important to see a doctor for a medical evaluation to determine the cause.
When we're depressed, we may be more sensitive...
Dysthymia. A type of chronic, low-grade depression that is less severe than major depression. It can also last for years. Dysthymia may not disable a person, but it prevents one from functioning normally or feeling well.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). A treatment for depression that uses an electric current to create a brief, controlled seizure. It is safe and often effective for depression that hasn't responded to drugs or therapy.
Hypomania. A milder form of mania.
Major depression. The medical diagnosis for depression that lasts for at least two weeks and interferes with daily life. It causes symptoms like low energy, fatigue, and feelings of hopelessness.
Mania. A symptom of bipolar disorder, mania is a period of intense energy, euphoria or irritability, sleeplessness, or recklessness. It is so extreme that it interferes with a person's life and can involve false beliefs (delusions) or perceptions (hallucinations).
Neurotransmitter. A chemical in the brain, like serotonin or norepinephrine, that sends messages between brain cells. Medicines that treat depression often alter the levels of these chemicals.
Panic attack. A sudden feeling of intense fear or anxiety, accompanied by physical symptoms, that isn't triggered by real danger. Panic attacks are common in many anxiety disorders.
Postpartum depression. Depression that affects women who have recently given birth. Many new mothers experience a brief episode of mild mood changes known as the "baby blues," but some will suffer from postpartum depression, a much more serious condition that requires active treatment and emotional support for the new mother.