is full of changes. Everyday events and our reactions to them sometimes
interfere with our sense of well-being and peace of mind. It is common to get
the blues or become sad when disappointed. Symptoms of
depression are the most common medical problems seen
by health professionals. It is estimated that feelings of depression will
affect about one-third of all adults in the United States at some time in their
Most people experience feelings of sadness over such losses
as divorce or separation, the death of a friend or loved one, or a job change
or layoff. These feelings are an expected reaction to a "triggering event," and
most people get over them in time.
Several factors increase your
risk of developing feelings of depression, such as:
Being female. Women are twice as likely as men to
experience feelings of depression. Hormonal changes may play a role in these
feelings, which may be more evident during pregnancy, especially shortly after
the birth of a baby (postpartum depression) or shortly
before or during
menopause. Some women experience feelings of sadness
or depression shortly before the start of menstruation (premenstrual syndrome, or PMS).
Age older than 60. Feelings of depression in this
age group are frequently overlooked because the symptoms are similar to other
diseases and problems experienced by older adults. Adults in this age group are
more likely to experience social isolation. Feelings of sadness may accompany
other life events, such as retirement, death of a spouse or child, or declining
Personal or family history. You are more likely
to experience feelings of depression if you have a history of previous
anxiety disorder, or another mental illness. You are
also 2 to 3 times more likely to experience feelings of depression if one or
both of your parents were diagnosed with depression.
problems—such as cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, or
Parkinson's disease—or alcohol or substance abuse or
Stressful life events, such as changing jobs, the loss
of a job, or children leaving home.
Lack of family or social
Symptoms of depression that may point to a need for treatment
vary from person to person. If you experience feelings of sadness or loss of
interest in pleasurable activities plus 4 or more of the following symptoms for
2 weeks or longer, you may be depressed.
Changes in appetite or
Restlessness or decreased activity that is noticed by
Feeling tired or sleepy all of the time
sleeping or sleeping more than usual
Inability to concentrate or
Feelings of hopelessness
worthlessness or guilt
Preoccupation with death or recurrent
thoughts of suicide
People who feel depressed may also have physical symptoms,
such as body aches or stomach problems.
Because "mood swings" and
other emotional changes are considered a normal part of growing up, depression
in children and teens often goes unrecognized. Children and teens do develop
depression, and it can affect a child's quality of life. If prolonged or severe
depression is left untreated, it can lead to serious outcomes, including
suicide attempts and even completed suicide. If you are thinking about suicide, talk to someone about your feelings, such as your health professional or a close friend or family member you trust. Don't wait. If you are not able to talk with your health professional immediately, call your local suicide hotline or this suicide hotline (Canada and U.S.): 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255.
Depression is the most important risk factor for suicide. For more
information, see the topic
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If you are thinking about suicide, talk to someone about your feelings, such as your health professional or a close friend or family member you trust. Don't wait. If you are not able to talk with your health professional immediately, call your local suicide hotline or this suicide hotline (Canada and U.S.): 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255.
Positive actions and feelings can
help lift your spirits. Although thinking positively may be very difficult when
you are feeling depressed, try to consider the positive side of situations and
events in your life.
Appreciate any moments when you have positive
thoughts. The following tips may help.
Practice positive thinking. Make statements that
promote good thoughts. Replace negative self-talk with positive comments.
Take action to put more fun into your life:
Exercise. Running, brisk walking, and other
forms of aerobic exercise improve symptoms of mild to moderate
Work in the garden or play with a pet. Plants and pets
can be very therapeutic. When you pet an animal, your blood pressure goes down
and your heart rate slows. Filling the needs of animals and plants can help you
Visit a friend. Spending time with a good friend may
help you forget about your problems for a while and help you see the brighter
side of life.
Have a massage or a manicure, or get your hair
Rearrange your furniture.
Talk with your health professional about
nonprescription medicines, such as
St. John's wort or
Talk to your health professional or
pharmacist before taking St. John's wort if you are taking any other medicines.
St. John's wort may change the way other medicines work. In some cases, it may
decrease how well medicines work. In other cases, it may make medicines
Do not use alcohol or other mood-altering drugs while
you are taking a nonprescription medicine.
Follow the directions on
the label. Do not exceed the recommended dose.
If you are or could
be pregnant, talk with your health professional before taking any medicine or
For more information on dietary supplements, visit the
website of the Office of Dietary Supplements, within the National Institutes
of Health, at http://ods.od.nih.gov/index.aspx.
Take a class or go to a free lecture at the public
library or local hospital.
Take a vacation. Sometimes just getting
away for the afternoon will brighten your mood.
Go to the movies or
rent a funny movie.
If nothing feels fun, try doing something that
you used to enjoy.
not getting better as expected after starting treatment for depression.
If you think a friend or loved one is depressed, you may feel helpless.
But there are still things you can do to help the person, such as talking with him or her about getting treatment. You can offer support and be a caring friend.
Life is full of changes. Everyday events
and our reactions to them sometimes interfere with our sense of well-being and
peace of mind. While it is common to get the "blues" or to feel sad
occasionally, you may be able to prevent feelings of depression.
Have a regular checkup with your health
professional. Your health professional may evaluate your
thyroid function and other factors. Many other
diseases, such as
coronary artery disease and
diabetes, can increase your risk of feeling
Maintain regular sleep and eating patterns. Do not skip
Try to get some exercise every day. Walking is a good way to
Get involved in social groups or volunteer to help others.
Being alone makes things seem worse than they are.
Do not use
alcohol or illegal drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines, or heroin, to
"self-treat" your symptoms. A treatment plan that includes prescription
medicine and regular visits to a health professional is much safer and more
Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking
increases your risk of developing coronary artery disease. The use of smokeless
(spit) tobacco increases your risk for developing cancer of the mouth, neck,
throat, and digestive tract. Your risk of developing depression increases if
you have coronary artery disease or cancer.
Before seeing your
health professional, it may be helpful to keep a diary of your symptoms. You
can help your health professional diagnose and treat your condition by being
prepared to answer the following questions:
How long have you been troubled with a depressed
mood? What is your major symptom?
What was happening in your life
when the depressed mood started?
How long have you had your
symptoms? Do they come and go or are they always present?
ever had a similar problem in the past? If so, how was it
What makes your symptoms better or worse?
you have any other symptoms that may be related to your major symptom? Symptoms
Rapid or irregular
Nausea or vomiting.
Feeling like you are not
able to get enough air (air hunger).
Restlessness, irritability, or
feeling on edge.
Feelings of overwhelming anxiety or fear.
What prescription or nonprescription medicines are
you currently taking?
Are you using alcohol or illegal drugs, such
as marijuana or cocaine, to manage your symptoms?
Have you ever
Has a family member or close friend attempted or
Has anyone else in your family ever been
diagnosed with a mental health problem, such as depression or an anxiety
Are you taking a medicine to treat depression? What is
the medicine? When did you start the medicine? What is the dose that you are
taking? Have you or your health professional changed the dose?
1-800-969-NMHA (1-800-969-6642) referral service for help with depression (703) 684-7722
Mental Health America (formerly known as the National
Mental Health Association) is a nonprofit agency devoted to helping people of
all ages live mentally healthier lives. Its website has information about
mental health conditions. It also addresses issues such as grief, stress,
bullying, and more. It includes a confidential depression screening test for
anyone who would like to take it. The short test may help you decide whether
your symptoms are related to depression.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour,
toll-free suicide prevention service. Crisis centers are located in 130
locations across the United States. Each caller is routed to the closest provider
of mental health and suicide prevention services.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.