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Depression is a serious illness that affects millions of Americans. Much more than "just a case of the blues," depression can interfere with relationships, daily activities, work and other aspects of your life.
Many health professionals consider depression a chronic illness that requires long-term treatment, much like diabetes or high blood pressure.
While the precise causes of depression are not known, researchers believe that depression is caused by an imbalance of the brain’s neurotransmitters, the chemicals that transmit signals between brain cells. Research suggests that abnormalities in the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine can affect behavior and mood.
Depression affects men and women of all ages – including children – and has often been shown to run in families. A person can have one or many episodes of depression in a lifetime. Each episode of depression makes a person more likely to have another episode of depression.
Research has shown that a combination of genetics and stressful life events may cause depression. These events can include:
Health problems, such as anemia or an underactive thyroid gland (known as hypothyroidism)
Women have a greater lifetime risk of depression than men. Some of the uniquely female forms of depression include:
The most common symptoms of depression are:
If your symptoms last two weeks or more, discuss your feelings with your doctor. Treatment may be necessary.
To diagnose depression, your physician will ask question about your health and feelings, and may use a questionnaire designed to help diagnose depression. Your physician may also do a physical exam, perfrom blood tests to rule out underlying conditions such as an underactive thyroid, and may ask you about thoughts of suicide.
Always tell your doctor if you feel sad or have other symptoms of depression. Depression can be treated, and the sooner you get treatment, the more likely you are to experience a fast and full recovery.
For more information on obtaining services with the UC San Diego Department of Psychiatry, please call:
Official Web Site of the University of California, San Diego.