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Overcoming Depression
Student Health Information Page compiled by: Jennifer Rhodes

What is Depression?

Life can be tough, and it isn’t abnormal to occasionally feel sad, or stressed. However, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, when those feelings consistently impact your ability to go about your daily life and impact your overall health, then depression could be at fault.

There are multiple types of depression, which vary in length and severity.

Major depression causes symptoms that interfere with a person's ability to live life day-to-day. This may happen to a person once, or multiple times over a person's life.

Persistent depressive disorder, however, will be diagnosed when a person displays symptoms over the course of two years or more.

Depression in the United States

  • Depression impacts approximately 9 percent of Americans.
  • Women are 70 percent more likely to suffer from depression than men.
  • Depression is involved with over 30,000 deaths from suicide a year.
  • One in eight adolescents have clinical depression.

What Causes Depression?

The exact cause of depression is unknown. However, depression is an illness of the brain. This illness involves abnormalities in the chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. These brain chemicals make us feel happy, nervous, scared, and sometimes sad.

Many different types of neurotransmitters, working together side by side, are needed for humans to regulate their moods. Some scientists believe that this explanation does not account for how complex the disease of depression actually is. Depression can often be a mixture of not only a lack of correct brain chemicals, but of stressful life events, other health issues, and family history as well.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.

Depression & Other Chronic Disease

Depression is commonly found coexisting with other chronic diseases. 25% of those diagnosed with cancer suffer from depression as well. It was also found that depression can be linked with an increased risk of developing other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Overcoming Depression

Just as determining what causes depression is complex, so is the treatment of depression. Treatment is usually most effective when multiple methods of treatment are used. Medication, in combination with therapy and diet and exercise, can allow most depression sufferers to see a reduction in symptoms, eventually resulting in no symptoms at all.

Treatment Options:

Medications: Anti-depressant medications are commonly used to treat depression. These medications work by helping your brain produce the correct chemicals to manage your mood, and help those chemicals correctly interact with each other so depression symptoms can be controlled. Side effects often occur with depression medication. Side effects may include:
  • nausea
  • increased appetite and weight gain
  • loss of sexual desire and other sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction and decreased orgasm
  • fatigue and drowsiness
  • insomnia
  • dry mouth
  • blurred vision
  • constipation
It is important to understand that each person reacts differently to different kinds of medicine. It is necessary for the patient to work with their doctor to find a medication that is the best fit for them. You should never stop taking a medication without consulting a doctor, as this can have a negative reaction and worsen depression symptoms.

Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy or counseling. It allows you to talk about your condition with a professional, and become familiar with your feelings and identify possible problems and solutions for overcoming your depression.

Alternative treatments: There are certain lifestyle changes that can improve depression treatment. Working with the doctor to explore additional treatment options such as implementing a healthy diet and exercising regularly, avoided alcohol and other substances, writing in a journal, reaching out to friends, and getting plenty of sleep, are great ways to help with treatment and management of depression.

Support for Depression

If you or you know someone who is considering suicide as a result of depression, please refer to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.

Other resources:
Learn more about mental illness here: http://www.namichicago.org/education/fact-sheets/