What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder
that causes symptoms such as low energy, prolonged sadness or irritability, and
lack of interest in daily activities. It is thought to be a result of chemical
imbalance and may be triggered by certain environmental, genetic, or medical
Am I depressed?
The symptoms of depression include
a loss of interest in daily activities or feeling sadness or hopelessness and
at least four of the following symptoms:
- A change in eating patterns that causes
either weight gain or weight loss
- Sleeping too much or not
- Feeling restless and unable to sit still or feeling that
moving takes a great effort
- Feeling tired all the
- Feeling unworthy or guilty without an obvious
- Having problems concentrating, remembering, or making
- Thinking often about death or suicide
Am I depressed enough to take medicines?
how to assess whether you might have depression. It is possible that you
have adapted to your ongoing symptoms of depression and may not realize that
the quality of your life could be significantly better.
Will I have to take medicine for the rest of my life?
Continuing to take medicine after recovery reduces your risk of a
recurrence of symptoms (relapse).1 About half of those
who experience one episode of depression will experience a relapse. Taking your
medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better can help keep you from
getting depressed again. If this is not the first time you have been depressed,
your doctor may want you to take these medicines even longer. Medicines must be
tapered off and not stopped abruptly.
Will taking antidepressant medicine change my personality?
Antidepressants can change how you feel and respond
in certain situations, but they do not change who you are. You may feel more
relaxed, more social, more assertive, or more outgoing when taking an
antidepressant. Research indicates that these effects may be caused not only by
the relief of depression but also by the direct effect of antidepressant drugs
on brain chemistry.
What to expect if you do take medicines
to treat depression
If you have depression, determining the
severity of your symptoms and how much they interfere with your daily living
can help you decide whether to take medicines. Antidepressants can help balance
the chemicals in your brain (neurotransmitters) and reduce the intensity of
your depressive symptoms.
You may start to feel better within 1 to
3 weeks of taking antidepressant medicine. But it can take as many as 6 to 8
weeks to see more improvement. If you have questions or concerns about your
medicines, or if you do not notice any improvement by 3 weeks, talk to your
It is important to remember that people respond
differently to antidepressant medicines, and the first medicine you try may or
may not be effective in relieving your symptoms of depression. If the medicine
is not effective after several weeks, you may need to try another
Although medicines have potential side effects,
these side effects are usually temporary and go away within the first few weeks
of therapy. If your depressive symptoms are worse than the possible side
effects of the medicines, you may benefit from taking medicines to treat
depression. Common side effects include:
- Nausea, loss of appetite, or
- Anxiety or irritability.
- Problems sleeping,
- Loss of sexual desire or ability.
Headaches or dizziness.
What to expect if you do not take
medicines to treat depression
If you determine that your symptoms
are not interfering with your daily living and that your symptoms are less
bothersome than the side effects of the medicines, you may decide against
taking medicines to treat your depression. But you should seek other treatment
for depression, such as professional counseling. Untreated depression may get
If you do not take medicines to treat depression,
continuing to monitor how much your symptoms interrupt your life and the lives
of those around you can be helpful in your treatment. Professional counseling
can help you deal with immediate problems and learn ways to better cope with
future issues. Some people are able to overcome mild and sometimes moderate
depression by seeking treatment other than medicine.