About This Condition
Depression is a condition characterized by unhappy, hopeless feelings. It can be a response to stressful events, hormonal imbalances, biochemical abnormalities, or other causes.
Mild depression that passes quickly may not require any diagnosis or treatment. However, when depression becomes recurrent, constant, or severe, it should be diagnosed by a licensed counselor, psychologist, social worker, or doctor. Diagnosis may be crucial for determining appropriate treatment. For example, depression caused by low thyroid function can be successfully treated with prescription thyroid medication. Suicidal depression often requires prescription antidepressants. Persistent mild to moderate depression triggered by stressful events is often best treated with counseling and not necessarily with medications.
When depression is not a function of external events, it is called endogenous. Endogenous depression can be due to biochemical abnormalities. Lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, and herbs may be used with people whose depression results from a variety of causes, but these natural interventions are usually best geared to endogenous depression.
A diagnosis of depression requires at least five of the following symptoms.
- Depressed mood.
- Diminished interest or pleasure in all or most activities, most of the day, nearly every day.
- Significant weight loss or gain when not dieting (e.g., more than 5% of body weight in a month).
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping nearly every day.
- Agitation or depression in voluntary muscle movements nearly every day.
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive and inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness nearly every day.
- Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of death), recurrent suicidal ideation without a plan, or a suicide attempt or specific plan to commit suicide.
Psychological counseling is an essential component of therapy.