May 3, 2016

Answers FAQ

Depression FAQs

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD on March 24, 2016

Take the Depression Quiz First! Before reading this FAQ, challenge yourself and
Test your Knowledge!

Q:Depression is a mood disorder and mental illness. True or false?

A:True.

Depression is an illness characterized as a mood disorder. Over 20 million people in the US suffer from this treatable condition. Depression is a serious condition that affects how one thinks, feels, and reacts to daily life. Persistent negative thoughts and feelings are common for people with depression.

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Q:What are signs and symptoms of depression?

A:There are many signs and symptoms of depression; these may be psychological or physical in nature.

Having some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day for at least 2 weeks, is typical for depression:
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or pessimism
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt
- Feeling tired, run-down, having low energy
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Problems concentrating, thinking clearly, or making decisions
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Appetite changes; weight gain or loss
- Thoughts or plans of death or suicide

Not all people with depression experience all of these symptoms. Symptoms vary among individuals and according to the stage of disease.

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Q:Depression is one part of bipolar disorder. What is the other?

A:Bipolar disorder, once referred to as manic depression, consists of episodes of depression that alternate with periods of intensely elevated mood known as mania.

Symptoms of mania include an elevated, unrestrained, or irritable mood; feelings of exaggerated self-importance or grandiosity; racing thoughts; sleeplessness; and a potential to engage in risky behavior.

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Q:What is postpartum depression?

A:Postpartum depression is depression that occurs after childbirth. Rapid changes in hormone levels after birth may be partially responsible for this type of depression.

Symptoms of depression are common, along with symptoms such as:

- fear of being alone with the baby
- crying, anxiety, or panic attacks
- irritability and anger
- fear of being a bad mother
- guilt or feeling worthless
- loss of pleasure or interest in activities that were formerly pleasurable

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Q:What causes depression?

A:Depression is thought to be caused by a complex combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

The condition usually develops between the ages of 15 and 30 and is much more common in women than in men. A family history of depression, major life changes, and certain physical illnesses are all risk factors for depression.

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Q:Depression is treatable. True or false?

A:Depression is treatable.

In most cases, treatment involves a combination of psychotherapy, medications, and self-care techniques. Self-care strategies include setting realistic goals, educating yourself about depression and its treatment, postponing important decisions, managing expectations for recovery, and allowing others to help you.

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Q:What are symptoms of depression in children and teens?

A:Children and teens experiencing depression are often sad or irritable.

They may have crying spells or become withdrawn. Anxiety and school problems are common. It can be difficult to determine whether a child is depressed or going through a difficult developmental phase, and the symptoms of depression may change as the child matures and develops. If you feel that your child or teen may be depressed, the first step is to get a professional diagnosis so that a treatment plan can be made.

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Q:Depression and anxiety disorders are the same. True or false?

A:Depression is different from anxiety disorders, but some people have symptoms of both conditions.

In particular, nervousness, problems sleeping, irritability, and difficulty concentrating can be symptoms of both conditions. Other symptoms of anxiety disorder include muscle tension, worrying, feeling "on edge," and restlessness.

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Q:Depression is an overreaction to stress in life. True or false?

A:False.

Difficult situations in life can cause a person to feel sad, scared, or anxious as a normal reaction to life's stressors. But people with depression experience these feelings almost every day for no apparent reason, so much so that their ability to function is compromised. Depression affects the way one thinks, feels, and functions in all aspects of life.

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