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Caregiving: Stress And Depression

Treatment for Depression

Most people with depression can be treated successfully with antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.

There is not just one cause of depression. It is a complex disease that can occur as a result of a multitude of factors. Depression is believed to be associated with chemical imbalances of the brain. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are responsible for helping to communicate messages from brain cell to brain cell. Antidepressant medicines work by increasing the amount of neurotransmitters that are available. This ultimately results in improved communication between the brain cells, called neurons. There are many antidepressant medicines available to treat depression.

Psychotherapy involves talking to a licensed professional who helps the depressed person focus on the behaviors, emotions, and ideas (including negative thought patterns) that contribute to his or her depression. Through therapy, patients learn to understand and identify the problems, events, or situations (such as caring for an ill or elderly loved one) that may contribute to depression, and understand which aspects of those problems they may be able to solve or improve. Therapy also helps the patient regain a sense of control and pleasure in life.

When Should I Get Professional Help?

Seek professional help if you experience one or more of the following:

  • Symptoms of depression that last more than two weeks
  • A noticeable decline in work or school performance
  • Excess anxiety
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Inability to cope with demands of daily life
  • Irrational fears
  • Obsessive preoccupation with food and fear of becoming obese with no relationship to actual body weight
  • Significant change in sleeping or eating habits
  • Persistent physical ailments and complaints
  • Suicidal thoughts or urge to hurt others
  • Self-mutilation, self-destructive or dangerous behavior
  • Sustained withdrawn mood or behavior

Preventing Depression

There are a few practical steps you can take to prevent depression. Being physically fit and eating a balanced diet are ways to help avoid illnesses that can bring on disability or depression. By following your doctor's directions on using medicines, you may lower the risk of depression as a drug side effect. It also is important to seek help when you first begin to feel overwhelmed by your caregiving responsibilities or notice any changes in your health, thinking, or behavior.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 21, 2013
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