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What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychotherapy or both.

Help With Depression

Although depression may occur only once during your life, people typically have multiple episodes. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
  • Sadness or depressed mood
  • Decreased or no interest in once enjoyable activities
  • Appetite changes – Leading to weight loss or weight gain
  • Sleep issues – Too much or not enough sleep
  • Lack of drive in physical activity – Unable to sit still, pacing, slowed speech
  • Feelings of guilt or lack of self worth
  • Trouble thinking, lack of concentration, inability to make decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts

– Symptoms lasting more than 2 weeks and show a change in your previous functioning may be signs of depression.

Symptoms caused by major depression can vary from person to person. To clarify the type of depression you have, your doctor may add one or more specifiers. A specifier means that you have depression with specific features, such as:

  • Anxious distress — depression with unusual restlessness or worry about possible events or loss of control
  • Mixed features — simultaneous depression and mania, which includes elevated self-esteem, talking too much and increased energy
  • Melancholic features — severe depression with lack of response to something that used to bring pleasure and associated with early morning awakening, worsened mood in the morning, major changes in appetite, and feelings of guilt, agitation or sluggishness
  • Atypical features — depression that includes the ability to temporarily be cheered by happy events, increased appetite, excessive need for sleep, sensitivity to rejection, and a heavy feeling in the arms or legs
  • Psychotic features — depression accompanied by delusions or hallucinations, which may involve personal inadequacy or other negative themes
  • Catatonia — depression that includes motor activity that involves either uncontrollable and purposeless movement or fixed and inflexible posture
  • Peripartum onset — depression that occurs during pregnancy or in the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum)
  • Seasonal pattern — depression related to changes in seasons and reduced exposure to sunlight

Common signs and symptoms of depression in children and teenagers are similar to those of adults, but there can be some differences.

  • In younger children, symptoms of depression may include sadness, irritability, clinginess, worry, aches and pains, refusing to go to school, or being underweight.
  • In teens, symptoms may include sadness, irritability, feeling negative and worthless, anger, poor performance or poor attendance at school, feeling misunderstood and extremely sensitive, using recreational drugs or alcohol, eating or sleeping too much, self-harm, loss of interest in normal activities, and avoidance of social interaction.

Depression is not a normal part of growing older, and it should never be taken lightly. Unfortunately, depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated in older adults, and they may feel reluctant to seek help. Symptoms of depression may be different or less obvious in older adults, such as:

  • Memory difficulties or personality changes
  • Physical aches or pain
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite, sleep problems or loss of interest in sex — not caused by a medical condition or medication
  • Often wanting to stay at home, rather than going out to socialize or doing new things
  • Suicidal thinking or feelings, especially in older men

Several other disorders, such as those below, include depression as a symptom. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis, so you can get appropriate treatment.

  • Bipolar I and II disorders. These mood disorders include mood swings that range from highs (mania) to lows (depression). It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between bipolar disorder and depression.
  • Cyclothymic disorder. Cyclothymic (sy-kloe-THIE-mik) disorder involves highs and lows that are milder than those of bipolar disorder.
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. This mood disorder in children includes chronic and severe irritability and anger with frequent extreme temper outbursts. This disorder typically develops into depressive disorder or anxiety disorder during the teen years or adulthood.
  • Persistent depressive disorder. Sometimes called dysthymia (dis-THIE-me-uh), this is a less severe but more chronic form of depression. While it’s usually not disabling, persistent depressive disorder can prevent you from functioning normally in your daily routine and from living life to its fullest.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. This involves depression symptoms associated with hormone changes that begin a week before and improve within a few days after the onset of your period, and are minimal or gone after completion of your period.
  • Other depression disorders. This includes depression that’s caused by the use of recreational drugs, some prescribed medications or another medical condition.

While there are many life events or biological factors which cause depression the most common factors which may increase the chance of depression are:

  • Abuse – Including physical, sexual, or emotional. Depression may show itself later in life (far after the abuse occurred.
  • Medications – Acne, antivirals, and corticosteroids (among others) may increase likelihood for depression.
  • Conflict – “Fighting”, personal conflicts, or disputes with family or friends may cause depression in someone who is biologically vulnerable.
  • Loss or Death – Grief is a natural reaction to loss, but it may lead to depression
  • Biological – Your chances of depression may increase if you have a family history.
  • Life Events – Losing a job, income, divorce, or retiring are common events, which may lead to depression. Even positive events, such as, a marriage, new job, or graduation can cause depression.
  • Isolation – Losing contact with family, social group, or isolation because of another mental illness can lead to depression.
  • Substance Abuse – Nearly 1/3 of those with a substance abuse problem also suffer from major or clinical depression. Drugs and alcohol ultimately increases depression risk.

Depression or major depression can affect anyone, however, more often it affects people between the ages of 40 and 70. Older or younger people are at higher risk for severe depression. Depression in those above the age of 65 affects 6 million in the US, however 90% of those do not seek help. Higher than normal risk factors may include:

  • Age – (40-70)
  • Race – Hispanic or African Americans may be at higher risk. Asians typically report or seek treatment less, however they are more likely to consider or perform suicide.
  • Education/Economics – Less education, less economic stability, and often lack of insurance may trigger symptoms of depression.
  • Divorce – Going through a divorce or having been divorced are risk factors.
  • Genetics – Depression can be hereditary. In fact, if your parent had major depression you have a 25% of having it.

Depression is one of the most treatable mental disorders, in fact over 80% respond well to treatment and nearly all reflect a positive change or decrease in their symptoms. The most common forms of treatment are:

  • Medication
  • Pscyhotherapy
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Seeing a psychiatrist or neuropsychiatrist will help control your stress, which may improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your chances of a chronic disease. A psychiatrist will be able to give you insight into how to deal with your depression, provide medication, and develop a long-term plan for getting you back to the life you want to live.

Find out why we are the preferred Orange County Psychiatrist!

Depression Facts

  • Almost one-half of patients who are diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety.
  • Some studies have shown as little as 1/3 of all people with depression seek treatment.
  • Depression is one of the most treatable mental illnesses.

Psychiatry Disorders

Jennifer Sebastian, PA-C of Pacific Neuropsychiatric Specialists
  • Almost one-half of patients who are diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety.
  • Some studies have shown as little as 1/3 of all people with depression seek treatment.
  • Depression is one of the most treatable mental illnesses.

For Medical Emergencies Call 911

Need Immediate Help? Suicide?

If you, or someone you know, are considering suicide please contact:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741 741
Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
LGBT National Help Center: 888-843-4564
Warning signs may include:
  • Talk of suicide
  • Writing about suicide
  • Goodbye letters
  • Research online about how to do suicide
  • Self-harm / reckless behavior
  • Withdrawn behavior or loss of interest in normal activities
  • Feeling of heavy burdens
  • Abnormal feeling of loss, coping with loss, or threat of loss
  • Significant changes in personal hygiene
  • Sleep changes
  • Mood swings (or greater mood swings)
  • Medication stockpiling
  • Suddenly “at peace” from a depression

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