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    Understanding Depression


    Many people say, “I’m depressed” when they’re feeling sad. However, for most people this feeling goes away when the cause of the unhappiness improves. If the unhappy feeling is temporary, a person is not depressed.

    True depression is not feeling “down” but a serious mental health condition that causes ongoing feelings of despair along with other emotional and physical symptoms. It has a significant impact on a person’s ability to function in daily life and can cause problems at work, school and home.

    There are numerous factors that can contribute to the onset of depression, including genetic and environmental factors.  The genetics of depression are complex, and the ways in which genetic and environmental factors interact are not fully understood. However, there is no single gene that is responsible for depression.

    Types of Depression

    There are many different types of depression, such as:

    Major Depressive Disorder (sometimes called Major Depression)

    This is the most commonly diagnosed form of depression and affects 6.7% of the U.S. population over age 18. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Depression is characterized by an overwhelming sadness or loss of interest and pleasure in most daily activities. Other symptoms of depression include decreased or increased appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, psycho motor agitation or retardation, constant fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or excessive and inappropriate guilt, recurrent thoughts of death and suicidal ideation with or without specific plans for committing suicide, and cognitive difficulties, such as, a decreased ability to think, concentrate, and take decisions. If a person has at least five symptoms, and one of them is either overwhelming sadness or loss of interest and pleasure in most daily activities, they have major depressive disorder.

    Post-Partum Depression

    This form of depression can develop in a woman soon after a baby is born, or up to a year afterwards. Changes in hormones as well as other factors can contribute to postpartum depression.

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

    SAD is a condition people can develop that is tied to the time of year. For most people with SAD, they begin having depressive symptoms starting in fall or winter, then ending in spring or early summer. A person with SAD experiences some of the same symptoms as a person with major depressive disorder.


    There are other types of depression as well, such as the depression associated with bipolar disorder, atypical depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and persistent depressive disorder.


    Depression Symptoms

    If you believe you have depression, you should be diagnosed by a doctor or mental health professional to determine what kind you have so you can receive the treatment you need.

    To help a doctor properly diagnose you, take note of your symptoms as well as when they are occurring. If you are experiencing any of the problems listed here and they are not going away—or are becoming worse—make an appointment to see a mental health specialist or medical professional as soon as possible:

    • Decreased sex drive
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
    • Feeling despair and like life will never get better
    • Feeling irritated or angry
    • Feeling worthless
    • Having thoughts about suicide
    • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
    • Low energy most of the time
    • Misusing alcohol or another substance
    • Weight loss or gain


    Treating Depression

    Treatment for depression often includes a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy. Self-care—like exercise, meditation and breathing exercises—can also be used to support good mental health and help lessen the effects of depression. However, people with clinical depression should work with their doctor or a mental health professional to get optimal care, tailored to their individual condition.


    Prescription Medications

    The antidepressant medications that are prescribed most commonly for depression are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Examples of SSRIs that might be offered are:

    • Citalopram (Celexa)
    • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
    • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
    • Sertaline (Zoloft)
    • Paroxetine (Paxil)

    If these medications are not effective, there are other classes of antidepressants that may be prescribed, such as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)


    How DNA Testing Can Help People with Depression

    Not everyone reacts to medications in the same way, and finding the right medication to treat depression may take some trial and error. In fact, up to half of all patients do not respond as desired (and some even experience adverse reactions) to the first psychiatric medication they are prescribed. This is due in part to their individual genetic makeup (their DNA).

    In very recent years, however, scientists have identified innovative ways to use genetic testing to help personalize medicine, so it better meets the needs of individual patients—and can help healthcare providers make informed treatment decisions for patients who have depression.

    The information revealed by a patient’s DNA can also help a doctor better understand if a patient might experience negative side effects or adverse drug reactions, and avoid those options.


    “Depression.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression.


    With good information, you can better understand how these conditions may affect you, your loved one or your patient. The better informed you are, the better you can advocate. Learn more by clicking the topics below: