Mental Health: Depression
What Are the Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
People who suffer from SAD have many of the common signs of depression: Sadness, irritability, loss of interest in their usual activities, withdrawal from social activities, and inability to concentrate. But symptoms of winter SAD may differ from symptoms of summer SAD.
Symptoms of winter SAD may include the seasonal occurrence of:
- Increased need for sleep
- Decreased levels of energy
- Weight gain
- Increase in appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased desire to be alone
Symptoms of summer SAD include the seasonal occurrence of:
- Weight loss
- Trouble sleeping
- Decreased appetite
What Causes Depression?
There is not just one cause of depression. It is a complex disease that can occur as a result of a multitude of different factors, including biology and emotional and environmental influences. For some, depression occurs due to a loss of a loved one, a change in one's life, or after being diagnosed with a serious medical disease. For others, depression just happened, possibly due to a family history of the disorder.
How Is Depression Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of depression begins with a physical exam by a health care provider. Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose depression, the health care provider may use various tests to look for physical illness as the cause of the symptoms. If a physical cause for the depression is ruled out, your health care provider will likely refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for evaluation.
Diagnosis is based on the intensity and duration of symptoms -- including any problems with functioning caused by the symptoms.
How Is Depression Treated?
The most common treatment for depression includes the combination of antidepressant medicine, including selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants, and psychotherapy (called "therapy" for short, or "counseling"). Sometimes a combination of medicines are used to treat depression.
Sometimes, atypical antipsychotic medicines may be used in combination with antidepressants, when antidepressants alone are not fully effective at treating depression.
Electroconvulsive therapy, also called ECT, may be used when severe depression is unresponsive to other forms of therapy.
What Is the Outlook for People With Depression?
The outlook for depressed people who seek treatment is very promising. By working with a qualified and experienced mental health care professional, you can regain control of your life.