Patient & Family Resource Center

Information about types of Depression

Treatments for Depression

A number of antidepressant medications and psychotherapies have proven effective to treat depression. With proper treatment, symptoms often diminish within 4 to 12 weeks.

Left untreated, depression can increase a person’s risk of suicide, automobile or other accidents, heart disease and heart attacks, unemployment, divorce, social isolation, financial difficulties, alcoholism and drug abuse.

Helpful information about specific medications can be found at www.medlineplus.gov (click on "Drugs and Supplements").

About Depression

Depression is a treatable medical disorder that causes a person to feel persistently sad, low, or disinterested in daily activities. While everyone may have occasional moments of feeling sad or "blue," or a temporary period of sadness in response to a major loss, depression causes those feelings to continue for an extended period. Depression can cause significant suffering and can reduce a person’s ability to enjoy life. A person who suffers from depression may have a hard time with work, school, relationships, social activities, sports, hobbies, and parenting.

Depression often runs in families, and evidence suggests that genes may play a role. In addition, the illness may be triggered by factors such as: stress (such as trauma or loss), hormonal changes, substance abuse, sleep disorders, or a medical illness.

The two main symptoms of depression are: feeling sad, blue, down, or gloomy (a depressed mood); and loss of interest or pleasure in most activities. Other symptoms include sleep problems (either sleeping too much or too little or both); tiredness/loss of energy; a gain or loss in appetite or weight; problems thinking or concentrating; feeling slowed down/sluggish, restless, or both; having thoughts of worthlessness, hopelessness, or excessive guilt; and having thoughts of death or even suicide. The number of symptoms, their duration, and the degree of functional impairment are essential to distinguish depression from normal sadness (such as grief or disappointment) that is triggered by specific situations or events.

Some people do not meet full diagnostic criteria for major depression, but still suffer from depressive symptoms. These people may have minor depression, subsyndromal depression, or dysthymic disorder.

Major depression (also called clinical depression) may be diagnosed if five of the above symptoms (at least one of them must be sadness or loss of interest or pleasure) are present for at least two weeks.

Minor depression may be diagnosed if a person experiences two to five of the symptoms of depression for at least two weeks, with at least one of the symptoms being either sadness or loss of interest.

Subsyndromal depression may be diagnosed when sadness and a loss of interest or pleasure do not occur, but at least two of the other depressive symptoms do occur for at least two weeks.

Dysthymic disorder is often thought of as a chronic form of minor depression. Dysthymic disorder may be diagnosed if a person feels depressed more than half the time for at least two years (with no break in symptoms for at least two consecutive months) and has at least two symptoms of depression.

People who suffer from depression may be more susceptible to other illnesses and often complain of physiological problems, such as: headaches; nausea; shortness of breath; chest pain or heart racing; a worsening of preexisting aches and pains or new, unexplained aches and pains; frequent or worsening constipation; and trouble urinating or frequent urinating. In addition, they may be preoccupied with worries or feel irritable or easily frustrated. Although more women than men suffer from depression, depression is more likely to go unrecognized in men.

Depression in young people often looks different than it does in adults. In some cases, children and adolescents with depression may look sad or tearful more frequently than they had previously.

In other cases, they may be constantly irritable, or they may be tired, listless, performing poorly in school, or uninterested in favorite activities.