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What is depression?
Depression is a big change in your moods. You may feel sad and blue, even hopeless. You may not be interested in things you like to do. You may also have trouble eating, concentrating, and getting things done.

If these feelings last for 2 weeks or more, you may have a depression that needs treatment. If you are not treated, the depression can last much longer or become more serious.

What is the cause?
No one knows just what causes depression. It may happen because some chemicals in the brain are not balanced. It may happen more often in some families.

You may also feel depressed because you:

  • have lost a loved one
  • have a medical illness
  • are taking a medicine or drug that can cause depression
  • have recently had surgery or given birth
  • use alcohol or drugs
  • have lots of stress that you cannot control
  • have recently had a major change in your life

What are the symptoms?
You may have depression if you have 1 or both of these 2 symptoms most of the day, every day, for more than 2 weeks:

  • feeling sad or blue (You may cry, feel tense, upset, or easily bothered)
  • not be interested in things you normally like to do

People who have major depression, also have at least 4 of the following symptoms. They:

  • lose weight and do not feel like eating, or they may want to eat more often and gain weight
  • have trouble sleeping or spend more time sleeping
  • feel tired and do not have any energy feel nervous and restless
  • have less desire for sex
  • feel bad about themselves or guilty
  • have trouble thinking clearly
  • find it hard to remember things
  • think about death or hurting themselves (They may even plan suicide)

You may have a hard time getting along with your friends or family. It's hard to feel good about yourself and others when you are depressed.

How is it diagnosed?
Your health care provider will:

  • listen to how you feel (He or she may also talk with someone close to you)
  • examine you
  • ask about your medical history and about drug and alcohol use

Your provider may also do some blood tests.

How is it treated?
You need to get help. You may need psychotherapy or counseling and medicine.

Psychotherapy or counseling can give you the support you need. It can help you feel less out of control.

  • Your counselor or therapist can help you see how you look at things.
  • You can learn to see why and how you have negative thoughts and feelings.
  • You can learn to change the way you think and feel.

Antidepressant medicines will usually start to help you feel better within about 3 to 6 weeks.

  • should take the medicine for at least 6 to 12 months. This will help keep depression from coming back.
  • Do not stop taking your medicine until you and your health care provider decide you are ready. Your provider will then lower your doses over time. It is not a good idea to stop all of a sudden.
  • You may need to keep taking the medicine for a long while or even for the rest of your life.

If you get treatment early, you probably won't have to go to the hospital. But, it may be a good idea to stay in the hospital if:

  • you want to hurt yourself or someone else
  • there are too many problems to face at home (It can be hard to get well if things are too stressful or hectic at home)
  • you cannot take care of yourself or others who depend on you at home
  • you have no support at home

How long will it take to get well?
If you don't get treated, you may be depressed for a long time. The depression may keep coming back and may get worse. If you do get the help you need, you should feel better in a few weeks. If you get depressed again, call your health care provider or counselor right away.

The medicine may cause some side effects. Tell your health care provider about any problems you may have with the medicine.

How can I take care of myself?
Make sure you take your medicine and get counseling or psychotherapy.

You can also:

  • Find out what activities make you feel better. Do those things.
  • Join a support group. Do not spend too much time alone.
  • Talk to your family and friends.
  • Ask for help with your work when you need it.
  • Set limits if people expect too much from you.

It can also help to:

  • Eat healthy foods and drink less caffeine.
  • Stay away from alcohol or drugs.
  • Exercise at least 3 times a week for at least 20 minutes.
  • Sleep 7 to 9 hours per night.
  • Find time to relax every day.
  • When you have stress, try to breathe deeply.
  • Think often about the good things in your life.
  • Trust that things will work for your good.
  • Learn new and better ways to take care of problems.

Before you use any kind of medicine, even birth control pills:

  • tell your health care provider if you take medicine for depression
  • tell your health care provider if you have ever been treated for depression
  • make sure the new medicine you need to take will not make your depression worse

If you are depressed and feel that you could hurt yourself or someone else, call your health care provider or counselor right away.