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Depression Health Center

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Could You Be Depressed and Not Know It?

WebMD can help you recognize depression - and find relief


* Physical symptoms of depression that won't go away, like fatigue, headaches, back aches, digestive disorders, chronic pain, or menstrual problems

* Anxiety

* Agitation, irritability

* Forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating

* Low sex drive

* Pessimistic or hopeless outlook on life: While there are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the future, a depressed person is more apt to dwell on negative events and be unable to find anything to be happy about.

* Feelings of guilt or helplessness

* General apathy and lack of interest or pleasure in customary activities

* Thoughts of suicide

Experts say that certain behaviors can also be a sign of underlying depression. "Women often engage in behaviors that signal "masked depression," says psychologist Lara Honos-Webb, PhD, author of Listening to Depression. Compulsive shopping, working, eating, or drinking alcohol can be signs of depression -- particularly when a woman feels empty or anxious when she's not participating in these activities.

What Are the Causes of Depression?

Experts say that depression is caused by an interaction of genetic factors and real life triggers. Because depression often runs in families, experts believe that genetic factors make some people more vulnerable to than others, because of their individual brain chemistry.

Depression triggers can include:

* Situational factors: Major problems and life crises -- a romantic break-up, job loss, or the death of a loved one, for example -- are often the immediate, most obvious causes of depression. But ongoing life challenges like poverty, unemployment, and social isolation, as well as childhood trauma, also put people at higher risk for depression.

* Medical factors:Chronic pain or illness can lead to depression. Certain medical conditions -- including hypothyroidism, cancer, and hepatitis -- can cause depression. Nutritional deficiencies and some medications are culprits as well. Therefore, it's important that treatment for depression include a medical evaluation.

* Gender: Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, a discrepancy likely due in part to the tremendous hormonal shifts that accompany menstruation, child birth, and menopause.

* Stress: A connection between chronic stress and depression has been established and could explain why stressful life situations, like poverty and unemployment, put people at far higher risk for depression.

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