Search Encyclopedia:    
List of Topics Print This Page

Depression - overview


Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods.

Clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or more.

Which of these may be a symptom of depression?The correct answer is all of the above. Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, or miserable. Most of us feel this way sometimes for short periods. But depression as a medical condition affects your daily life in a persistent way. Talk with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms, or if you think you may be depressed.Depression is a state of mind – if you try hard enough, you can snap out of it.The correct answer is myth. Depression is a real medical disorder that causes real suffering. Brain scans have shown that certain areas of the brain look different in people with depression. It's unclear what causes the disorder, but an imbalance of brain chemicals or genetics may play a role.If a friend or loved one talks about suicide, what should you do?The correct answer is to seek professional help immediately. Suicide can be prevented with prompt intervention. If you or a loved one feels suicidal, call your doctor right away or call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Never try to manage the problem on your own.Depression is more common in women.The correct answer is fact. Hormonal fluctuations throughout a woman’s life may play a role. At puberty, girls have twice the risk for depression than boys. Many women experience mood changes and even depression around their period, after childbirth, and around the time of menopause.People who are depressed tend to:The correct answer is either A or B. While some people lose interest in food when they are depressed, others turn to food for comfort and overeat.Children don't get depressed.The correct answer is myth. A depressed child may complain of aches and pains, refuse to go to school, or worry all the time. About one out of every five teenagers has depression at some point in their teens. Note any changes in your teen’s daily routines or behaviors. This can be a sign of depression.Men may spend more time at work when they are depressed.The correct answer is fact. Men often react to depression in different ways than women. They are more likely to work long hours, abuse alcohol or drugs, lose their temper, or behave recklessly.Which types of talk therapy are effective in treating depression?The correct answer is all of the above. Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches you how to fight negative thoughts and develop self-awareness and problem-solving skills. Psychotherapy can help you understand the issues behind your thoughts and feelings. Ask your doctor for a recommendation.Depression can make the symptoms of other illnesses seem worse.The correct answer is fact. If you have a health condition like diabetes, depression can make the symptoms more severe. Feeling sad or down also makes it harder for you to do the work needed to manage your illness. Getting help for depression usually makes it easier to successfully treat your condition.Which of the following is true of antidepressant medicines?The correct answer is if one type of antidepressant doesn't help, chances are another one will. It can take 4 to 12 weeks for it to work fully, so try to be patient. Some benefits start earlier than that. If your medicine isn’t helping, talk to your doctor. Changing to a different antidepressant or adding a second medicine may help.Depression is very difficult to treat.The correct answer is myth. Most patients get better when treated with medicine, talk therapy, or a combination of the two. The first step is to talk to your doctor, who can refer you to a mental health professional. Make that first call, and you will be on the path to your recovery.
Alternative Names:

Blues; Gloom; Sadness; Melancholy

When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call 911, a suicide hotline, or go to a nearby emergency room if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others.

Call your health care provider if:

  • You hear voices that are not there.
  • You cry often without cause.
  • Your depression has affected your work, school, or family life for longer than 2 weeks.
  • You have 3 or more symptoms of depression.
  • You think one of your current medications may be making you feel depressed. DO NOT change or stop taking any medications without talking to your health care provider.
  • If you think your child or teen may be depressed.

You should also call your provider if:

  • You think you should cut back on drinking alcohol
  • A family member or friend has asked you to cut back on drinking alcohol
  • You feel guilty about the amount of alcohol you drink
  • You drink alcohol first thing in the morning

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.

American Psychiatric Association. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depressive Disorder. 3rd ed. October 2010. Available at: Accessed: March 10, 2014.

Review Date: 12/20/2014
Reviewed By: Paul Ballas, DO, Attending Psychiatrist, Friends Hospital, Philadelphia PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

   View History
  Depression - overview



About UPHS   Contact Us   Site Map   Privacy Statement   Legal Disclaimer   Terms of Use

The University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia, PA 1-800-789-PENN © 2016, The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania