Questions and Answers About Depression
5. How can you determine if an illness is causing depression or depression is causing an illness?
Illnesses that can lead to depression are usually major, chronic, and/or terminal. When an illness is causing depression, there is often long-term pain present or there is a sudden change in lifestyle.
Depression causes illness in a different way. Like psychological stress, it can weaken the immune system (cells involved in fighting disease and keeping you healthy), allowing a person to get more colds or the flu. There is often a notable presence of "aches and pains" with no particular cause. Having depression may also cause the symptoms of an illness to last longer and intensify its symptoms, but the true relationship of depression-induced illness, in terms of major disease, has not been thoroughly defined.
It is important to seek the advice of your doctor if you think you or someone you know may have depression.
6. I've heard lots of warnings about drug interactions with certain depression medicines. What are they?
MAOIs, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors, are effective antidepressant medicines that have been used for years. Typically prescribed for people with severe depression, MAOIs improve mood by increasing the number of chemicals in the brain that pass messages between brain cells. They have proven to work just as well as other antidepressant drugs, but they have more possible food and drug interactions.
Medicines to avoid when taking MAOIs include all SSRIs (a group of antidepressants that includes Prozac and Paxil) and certain pain medicines, including Demerol and tramadol. There are also some cough medicines and blood pressure medicines that should not be taken with MAOIs. Foods to avoid when taking MAOIs include aged cheeses and meats, pickled or smoked foods like sauerkraut or meat, and aged or fermented foods such as soy sauce or tap beer. It is important to tell your doctor about any medicines you are currently taking. Be sure to discuss the limitations, interactions, and possible side effects of MAOIs.
7. Why are women more likely to get depression?
Women develop depression twice as often as men. One reason may be the various changes in hormone levels that women experience. For example, depression is common during pregnancy and menopause, as well as after giving birth, suffering a miscarriage, or having a hysterectomy -- these are all times when women experience huge fluctuations in hormones. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), an extreme form of PMS, may also cause depression.
8. Do most people with depression commit suicide?
No. Most people who suffer from depression do not attempt suicide, but according to the National Mental Health Association, 30%-70% of suicide victims have suffered from some form of depression. This figure demonstrates the importance of seeking professional treatment for yourself or someone you love if you suspect depression.