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Could You Be Depressed and Not Know It?

WebMD can help you recognize depression - and find relief
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What Are the Causes of Depression? continued...

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 professional.

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.

For many people, antidepressants are very effective in treating depression, particularly when depression is severe or persistent. We don't completely understand how antidepressants work, but we do know that they readjust the balance in brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. There are currently many different types of antidepressants on the market, so be sure to work with a psychiatrist who can help you find the medication that is most effective for you.

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