Depression is a condition that causes a person to have a persistent feeling of profound sadness. Depression will also cause people to lose interest and pleasure in things that they normally enjoy. It is a type of medical condition or illness termed a “mood disorder.”
Depression is a very common mental illness that is treatable. Depression is not a normal or acceptable part of life, and one cannot just “snap out of it.”
Depression affects approximately 17 million Americans every year (seven percent of the population). Depression affects all people, regardless of sex, age or race.
Depression can have a profound and devastating effect on how a person feels, interacts with other people, believes, behaves and thinks. It can produce both emotional and physical challenges. Untreated, depression can lead to suicide.
What causes depression?
The cause of depression is not certain. There are probably a variety of triggers. These include, but are not limited to:
- Abnormal chemicals or neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate mood
- Hormonal changes
- Devastating life events
- Genetics and family history
- Certain medications
Symptoms of depression
- Profound feeling of sadness
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Loss of pleasure in normally enjoyable activities
- Angry reactions and outbursts to trivial issues
- Low energy
- Feeling of profound tiredness
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Profound feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Easy agitation
- Loss of appetite
- Weight changes (up and down)
- Memory problems
- Difficulty thinking and concentration
- Strange physical problems that can’t be explained, such as body aches or headaches
- Thoughts of dying or suicide
The diagnosis is a medical diagnosis and should be made by a doctor. If you are feeling sad, call your doctor.
Treatments can be very effective and include:
Medications: There are over six categories of anti-depressive medications that have excellent records of results.
Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, alone or in combination with medications, can be very effective in treating depression. Psychotherapy is an active talk or discussion with a mental health professional to identify and work through issues that may be triggering the depression. The goal of psychotherapy is to focus on positive thoughts, develop tools for better problem-solving skills, develop a game-plan to effectively maintain healthy relationships, and focus on positive goal-setting and finding healthy strategies to deal with stress.
Electroconvulsive Therapy: ECT is a treatment where electrical stimulation of the brain causes a rebalancing of neurotransmitters in the brain to alleviate depression. This is often employed with success when other treatments are ineffective.
Remember, depression is treatable. The vast majority of patients with depression can be treated very effectively. You do not have to live with depression. If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with depression, it is not something that you can snap out of on your own. Call your doctor and get help. If you are feeling suicidal, go to an emergency room.
Once more for emphasis, DEPRESSION IS TREATABLE!
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the U.S. by Black Enterprise magazine and one of the top 21 African American physicians in the U.S. by the Atlanta Post. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians, MABP.org.