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We all occasionally feel blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and disappear within a couple of days. When we have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both person and those who care about him. Depression is a common but serious illness. Many people with a depressive illness never take treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression.

Signs and symptoms of Depression:

Persistent sad, anxious, irritable or “empty” feelings Feelings of hopelessness, negativism or pessimism Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness Restlessness, Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable Fatigue and decreased energy, tiredness Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, and making decisions Sleep disturbances or excessive sleeping Overeating or appetite loss Death wish or suicidal ideation or attempts Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

How is depression diagnosed and treated?

Depression, even the most severe cases, can be effectively treated. The earlier that treatment can begin, the more effective it is. The first step to getting appropriate treatment is to visit a doctor or mental health specialist. Certain medications, and some medical conditions such as viruses or a thyroid disorder, can cause the same symptoms as depression. A doctor can rule out these possibilities by doing a physical exam, interview, and lab tests. If the doctor can find no medical condition that may be causing the depression, the next step is a psychological evaluation.

The doctor may refer you to a mental health professional, who should discuss with you any family history of depression or other mental disorder, and get a complete history of your symptoms. You should discuss when your symptoms started, how long they have lasted, how severe they are, and whether they have occurred before and if so, how they were treated. The mental health professional may also ask if you are using alcohol or drugs, and if you are thinking about death or suicide. Once diagnosed, a person with depression can be treated in several ways. The most common treatments are medication and psychotherapy.