What is depression?
Depression affects your mood, thoughts, body, and behavior. Millions of Americans experience depression each year. But some people still view it as a personal weakness or character flaw.
Depression is an illness. Some people have only 1 episode of depression in their lifetime. Others have many. The good news is that depression is very treatable.
Signs and symptoms
Below is a list of some symptoms of depression. If you have 5 or more symptoms for more than 2 weeks, you should talk with your doctor.
- Sad, irritable, or “empty” mood
- Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy, including sex
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Restlessness or irritability
- Fatigue or energy loss
- Loss of appetite or eating too much
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
Women are at greater risk
Women are at greater risk for depression than men. In fact, major depression affects twice as many women as men. This may be because women tend to have more challenging life situations.
Here are some examples:
- The effect of female hormones on brain chemicals can cause depression.
- Certain female personality characteristics may play a role. For instance, women are often moody and have a tendency to feel guilty.
- Women in poverty are more prone to depression.
- Women are more likely to be the victim in an abusive relationship, which can be a cause of depression.
Depression is treatable
Talk with your doctor or nurse about your symptoms and get treatment now. As with many illnesses, the earlier the treatment begins, the more effective it will be. Getting treatment also will improve your chances of keeping depression from coming back.
Some types of treatments include:
- Talk therapy — also known as psychotherapy. These specialized forms of therapy help people learn skills and techniques to treat or prevent depression.
- Medicine — antidepressant medicines work on chemicals in the brain. They are not addictive.
Talk therapy and medicine often are used together.
Getting the benefits of treatment begins by recognizing the signs of depression. The next step is to be evaluated by your family doctor or a mental health therapist.
Treatment is a partnership between an individual and a health care provider.
Take care of yourself
If you think you might have depression:
- Check your symptoms against the list of symptoms.
- Talk to a doctor or mental health professional.
- Choose a treatment professional and a treatment approach.
- Consider yourself a partner in treatment and be an informed patient.
If you are thinking of harming yourself, or others, seek help immediately.
Behavioral health for women
Check with your physician for resources in your community. Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, in partnership with Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, also provides counseling and behavioral health services for women and their families. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 412-624-1000.