Health Information

Depression

What is depression?

A depressive disorder is a whole-body illness, involving the body, mood, and thoughts, and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, feels about himself or herself, and thinks about things. It is not the same as being unhappy or in a blue mood. Nor is it a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better.

Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression. During any one year period, nearly 19 million American adults suffer from depressive illness. Yet, treatment can alleviate symptoms in nearly 80 percent of cases.


What contributes to depression in women?

Women experience depression about twice as often as men. Many hormonal factors may contribute to the increased rate of depression in women - particularly such factors as menstrual cycle changes, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum period, perimenopause, and menopause. Many women also face additional stresses such as responsibilities both at work and home, single parenthood, and caring for children and aging parents.

Many women are also particularly vulnerable after the birth of a baby. The hormonal and physical changes, as well as the added responsibility of a new life, can be factors that lead to postpartum depression in some women. While transient "blues" are common in new mothers, a full-blown depressive episode is not a normal occurrence and requires active intervention. Treatment by a sympathetic physician and the family's emotional support for the new mother are prime considerations in aiding her to recover her physical and mental well-being and her ability to care for and enjoy the infant.

Treatment for depression:

Specific treatment for depression will be determined by your physician based on:
  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the depression
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disorder
  • your opinion or preference