What Are the Causes and Symptoms of Depression?

Everybody feels blue now and then, but most of the time it lasts just a few days and goes away on its own. Depression is different. It gets in the way of your daily life and makes it harder to do the things you love. You'll need treatment to get better.

Symptoms

There are a lot of signs of depression, but you may not have them all. How intense they are, and how long they last, are different from person to person.

Some of the ways you might feel are:

Sad, empty, or anxious. It will continue over time without getting better or going away.

Helpless, worthless, or guilty. You may feel bad about yourself or your life, or think a lot about losses or failures.

Hopeless. You may be pessimistic or believe that nothing good will ever happen. You may even think about suicide.

Irritable. You may get restless or more cranky than usual.

Less interest in activities. Hobbies or games you usually enjoy may not appeal to you. You may have little or no desire to eat or have sex.

Less energetic. You may feel extremely tired or think more slowly. Daily routines and tasks may seem too hard to manage.

Trouble concentrating. It could be tough to focus. Simple things like reading a newspaper or watching TV may be hard. You may have trouble remembering details. It might seem overwhelming to make a decision, whether it's big or small.

Changes in the way you sleep. You may wake up too early or have trouble falling asleep. The opposite can also happen. You may sleep much longer than usual.

Changes in appetite. You may overeat or not feel hungry. Depression often leads to weight gain or weight loss.

Aches and pains. You may have headaches, cramps, an upset stomach, or digestive problems.

Causes

Experts believe depression is due to a combination of things:

Brain structure. The way certain nerve pathways or circuits in your brain send information may not work properly. Scans show that the parts of your brain involved in mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior look different when you're depressed, but scientists aren't sure why.

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Genes. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make you more likely to get it. But even if you have them, you may not get depressed. And depression can happen in some people even when they don't have that genetic makeup.

Depression can run in families, but that doesn't mean you'll develop depression just because someone you're related to has it. And you may have the condition even if no one else in your family has it.

Life events. Something disturbing that happens to you may trigger depression. It may be the loss of someone close to you, a difficult relationship, or a stressful situation. Other things, like your finances, where you live, and whether or not you're married may also have an impact. But remember, there doesn't have to be a "reason" for your depression. Sometimes it happens without an obvious cause.

Childhood problems. People who have disturbing experiences in childhood are more likely to have depression. It may be from brain changes caused by trauma at a young age.

Other conditions. Drug or alcohol abuse, illness, long-term pain, anxiety, sleep problems, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may also be linked to depression.

If you think you're getting depressed, don’t try to tough it out. See your doctor. Lots of treatments can help, including antidepressants and talk therapy. And make sure you get the backing you need from family, friends, and support groups.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on April 08, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

National Alliance on Mental Illness: "Depression."

National Institute of Mental Health: "Depression."

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