Depression is a mood disorder. Many people with depression feel sad or down for an extended period of time. Everyone has times when they feel sad, but clinical depression is ongoing and serious. It is characterized by general feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities or social outings and trouble getting general chores done. Talk to your doctor if you are exhibiting any of the common signs and symptoms of depression. Depression left untreated could have serious implications, like losing your job or relationships, or in more serious cases, suicidal thoughts.
Symptoms of depression can vary in type and severity from person to person. Try to pay close attention to the types of symptoms your experience so you can explain them to your doctor. Some common symptoms of depression include:
- trouble focusing, concentrating or making decisions
- anger, irritability or frustration
- loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- trouble sleeping or getting too much sleep
- isolation and avoiding or dropping out of social outings
- not eating enough, eating too much or craving unhealthy foods
- anxiety, excessive worry, or guilt
- missing days or underperforming at work or school
- suicidal thoughts or attempts
- headache or muscle pain
- drug or alcohol abuse
While the exact cause of depression is unknown, there are a couple common areas to consider. Possible causes include:
- genetic: Depression can run in families.
- biochemical: Depression is thought to occur when neurotransmitters in the brain aren’t functioning properly.
- hormonal: Depression can begin during a time of intense hormone change, like with childbirth or menopause.
- seasonal: Depression could start with the season changes, most commonly from fall to winter. This type of depression is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
- situational: Depression often starts after a traumatic life event, like an accident or losing a loved one.
Depression is difficult to diagnose because there aren’t any simple tests to take. Your doctor will do an evaluation and may refer you to a psychiatrist. During a mental health evaluation, your doctor will be looking for information on how your life is going, how you are feeling, and what types of thoughts you are having. Your doctor might suggest treatment for depression based on how this evaluation goes.
The most common treatment options for depression include medication, psychotherapy or a combination. Every case of depression is different and will be treated differently. It may take time to find the best treatment plan for your case and symptoms.
SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)
This class of medications works by blocking serotonin absorption in the brain, which keeps levels higher. Serotonin affects mood, so having more around can help combat a depressive state.
SSRIs are often seen under the following names:
- citalopram (Celexa)
- escitalopram (Lexapro)
- fluoxetine (Prozac)
- paroxetine (Paxil)
- sertraline (Zoloft)
- fluvoxamine (Luvox)
Common side effects of SSRIs include weight gain, sleep disturbances, and sexual problems.
SNRIs (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors)
This class of medications works by blocking absorption of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, which keeps levels higher.
SNRIs are often seen under the following names:
- venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
- duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- desvenlafaxine (Pristiz)
Common side effects include upset stomach, sleep issues, headache, sexual issues and high blood pressure.
NDRIs (Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors)
This class of medications works by blocking absorption of both norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, which keeps levels higher. The one drug in this class is bupropion (Wellbutrin).
TCAs (Tricyclic Antidepressants)
This class of medications, an older class of antidepressants, may be helpful for people who don’t respond well to other options.
TCAs are often seen under the following names:
- imipramine (Tofranil)
- nortriptyline (Pamelor)
Side effects can be more serious with TCAs and include hypotension, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation and urinary issues.
MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
This class of medications is known to have serious side effects but may be helpful for people who have tried other medications without any success.
MAOIs are often seen under the following names: phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate).
Side effects may be serious and include drug or food interactions, like cheese and wine or decongestants.
This class of medications is often used for anxiety through minimizing muscle tension.
These medications are often seen under the following names:
Some people have also had success with medications that aren’t classified as antidepressants. These include pharmaceuticals and supplements:
- vilazodone (Viibryd)
- St. John’s wort
- omega-3 fatty acids
Talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment plans.