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Depression More Common in Those with Major Illness
People with major illnesses may be at an even greater risk of becoming depressed

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Depression More Common in Those with Major Illness

Depression affects about 1 out of every 10 adults each year. People with major illnesses may be at an even greater risk of becoming depressed. People who have had a heart attack are three times more likely to suffer from depression. Depression is diagnosed in three out of every 10 adults who have suffered a traumatic brain injury and depression also often accompanies chronic pain.

What is depression?

Depression affects how you feel physically and emotionally, how you think and how you act. Depression is more than just feeling sad. Depression is persistent, can interfere with your life and is the leading cause of disability in the United States.

Don't ignore depression -- it can be treated. Many people need the help of a doctor or other medical professionals to relieve depression.

What causes depression?

A variety of things can cause depression. Depression can be caused by chemical imbalances, hormone changes, genetic factors, life stresses, personality, substance abuse or a mix of any of those factors. A serious medical illness, such as diabetes or heart disease, or a condition such as pregnancy, is a life stress that may cause depression in some people.

What are the signs of depression?

Depression symptoms include:

  • Feeling of sadness, hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Appetite changes that result in significant weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Trouble concentrating on things or making decisions
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you have several of these symptoms for longer than two weeks, talk with your doctor.

How is depression diagnosed?

Your doctor will do an evaluation, which consists of asking a number of questions that relate to how you are currently feeling, as well as your past emotional health and your family history of any emotional health issues. Your doctor will record your responses to those questions.

The standard for diagnosing depression comes from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). This reference lists more than 200 mental health conditions and gives the criteria for each one, helping doctors make the right diagnosis. A physical examination and lab tests may also be necessary for the correct diagnosis.

How is depression treated?

There are two main ways of treating depression: psychotherapy and antidepressant medication.

Psychotherapy involves talking with a mental health professional. Your therapist will help you talk about your symptoms and will give you information about ways you may cope with and manage them. You may meet with this person on a weekly basis for several months or longer.

There are several kinds of medications that are used to help treat depression. Many people need both therapy and medication to treat their depression successfully.

By Toby Collodora, Contributing Writer
Created on 02/09/2012
Updated on 03/30/2012
  • American Psychiatric Association. Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives: Depression
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Depression after brain injury: A guide for patients and their caregivers.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness. What is depression?
  • Fava M and Cassano P. Mood disorders: major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, et al, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.
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