Could You Be Depressed and Not Know It?
WebMD can help you recognize depression - and find relief
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.
Treatment for Depression
According to depression experts at the American Psychological Association,
you should seek treatment for depression if it persists for more than two weeks
-- particularly if your depression is severe enough to interfere with normal
life activities. If you suspect that you are depressed, talk to your physician,
who can rule out physical causes and refer you to a mental health
Experts now understand that depression has to do with shifts in brain
chemistry, so a piece of the treatment puzzle involves re-balancing chemicals,
Wood says. But it doesn't have to involve medication. The best treatment for
your symptoms depends on your individual story, she says; whether you've been
depressed before, and whether your symptoms keep you in bed all day or simply
sap your energy. So try to describe your history and symptoms as precisely as
possible when you speak to your physician and psychotherapist.
Treatment for depression usually involves psychotherapy, antidepressants, or
both, according to Susan G. Kornstein, MD, a professor in
Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Medicine. Experts now believe that
a combination of both is most effective. In a study from Vanderbilt University
in Nashville, TN, researchers concluded that psychotherapy and medication
together were effective for 70% of women, says Valerie E. Whiffen, PhD,
professor of psychology at the University of Ottawa, Ontario, and author of
A Secret Sadness.
There is evidence that in many cases, psychotherapy works as well as
antidepressants do, and there are no side effects, according to Whiffen.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) for example, focuses on improving the patient's
relationships to help reduce depressive symptoms. Half of the women in the
Vanderbilt study who received IPT were no longer depressed at the end of
treatment -- the same result seen with antidepressants alone.