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What Is Depression?
Depression is a common medical illness that causes feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in things that usually bring joy. While everyone experiences sad feelings at times, clinical depression is when these symptoms last 2 or more weeks. For many, depression happens in a cycle of recurrent episodes. Depression leads to life problems, such as trouble at work, school, and in relationships. Depression can be treated; however, untreated depression increases the risk of self-harm and suicide.
Why Do I Feel Depressed?
There are many things that increase the risk of depression:
Negative life experiences and trauma, even in childhood
Having a long-term medical condition
Lack of social support or meaning in life
A history of depression in other family members
Medications and other substance use
Shifts in hormones that happen around menstruation and childbirth
Depression can appear differently in members of different age groups and cultures.
How Is Depression Diagnosed?
A discussion with your physician about your symptoms is often enough to make the diagnosis.
A careful review of medications, substance use, and medical history is important.
Surveys such as the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (https://www.mdcalc.com/phq-9-patient-health-questionnaire-9) can aid in diagnosing depression as well as monitoring response to treatment.
Your doctor may ask you questions about your home environment, including whether you have guns in the home. This information is needed to help you to increase home safety.
When Will I Feel Better?
For some people, depression gets better over the course of weeks to months, and treatment can be stopped. For others, ongoing treatment is necessary to help manage the symptoms of depression. For all, maintaining social supports, such as friends, coworkers, or family, and maintaining regular physical activity can help to avoid future depression. Depression can often be treated by your primary care physician. However, sometimes, a referral to a psychiatrist to explore more advanced therapies can be helpful.
American Academy of Family Physicianshttps://familydoctor.org/condition/depression/
National Institute of Mental Healthhttps://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
National Suicide Prevention Lifelinehttps://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Corresponding Author: Michael A. Incze, MD, MSEd, Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, 505 Parnassus, San Francisco, CA 94143-0124 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Published Online: September 3, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0637
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.
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Incze MA. I’m Worried About Depression—What Should I Know? JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(11):1612. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0637
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