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What is Depression?

Depression is a psychiatric disorder (mental health problem) that manifests itself through feelings of sadness/depression, lack of energy, loss of appetite or overeating, sleeping problems or sleeping too much, social withdrawal, inability to think clearly and other difficulties.

Everyone knows someone who has suffered from depression, whether it’s a friend, family member or co-worker. Depression touches more than 16 million Americans each year, so there’s a good chance you know someone struggling with this disorder.  

At least one in four adults will have depression sometime during their lives. Women are 70% more likely to develop depression than men and some ethnic groups seem more vulnerable than others. African-Americans, for example, have higher rates of clinical depression than Caucasians do. However, it is important to understand that while some people may be at a greater risk of developing this illness some people can experience depression during a specific time in their lives.

Additional Information About Depression

When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.

When to see a doctor

If you have symptoms of depression for most days of a two-week period, it’s important to seek help from a depression or mental health professional.

If you have been having symptoms of depression for less than two weeks, you may want to wait and see if your symptoms get better on their own before seeking help. However, if your symptoms are: If you feel suicidal or hopeless You can’t sleep, eat or enjoy previously pleasurable activities.

If you think you may hurt yourself; if you have a plan and the means to carry out this plan; if your family and friends are worried about how much you drink, do drugs or engage in other self-destructive behaviors If your feelings of depression began after a significant stressor or loss, your depression may have turned into something more serious known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you have been diagnosed with depression and are not getting better with treatments.

If your symptoms of depression get worse over time.


It is believed to be caused by an imbalance in the brain of certain chemicals, called neurotransmitters. These chemicals help nerve cells send messages from one cell to another.

In depression, levels of these neurotransmitters may not work as well as they should. This can cause someone to have different problems with mood and energy , for instance. There is also some evidence that genetics, changes in the immune system and hormones may play a role.

Diagnosis and Tests

Depression is often difficult to diagnose. In fact, it’s estimated that 50% of people with depression are misdiagnosed up to eight times before receiving the correct diagnosis.

It is important to see diagnosis from a behavioral health professional like those at PATH.


Antidepressants are medications for depression treatment that work by balancing levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals) in the brain, which help to elevate mood or alleviate feelings of sadness. The three main neurotransmitters involved in depression are norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. Antidepressants can take up to six weeks to begin working, so physicians usually recommend that patients continue the medications for at least six months after finding relief from symptoms.

There are several types of antidepressants available, which differ in terms of safety, strength and help against other disorders. The two most common types are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).

Treatment for depression generally requires a combination of medication and some form of psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. The goal of the therapy is to help patients learn how to adjust their thoughts and behaviors in ways that can lift their moods on a consistent basis.

Watchful waiting or a “watch and wait” approach is a medical term used to describe monitoring symptoms over time, either at home by the patient or with the help of a health care professional, without using antidepressant medication right away. This strategy can be effective for mild to moderate depression.

Now let’s take a look at the most common types of antidepressant medications.

Antidepressants used to treat depression.

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): Although their use has declined since the introduction of SSRIs, tricyclics are still often effective for patients who don’t respond completely to SSRIs or SNRIs. They take several weeks to work and can cause side effects such as drowsiness, weight gain, and dry mouth. Usually, the dose needs to be increased slowly over time to avoid side effects. They may also cause more serious issues in some people when taken at higher doses.

Tricyclics are generally safe in low doses but can have serious cardiac side effects in high doses.


Depression is very treatable, and most people who have depression can be helped. The first step is to visit a doctor or mental health professional and explain your symptoms in detail. Your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history to rule out physical causes for your symptoms.

If you are diagnosed with depression, the doctor will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Support and resources









Depressive disorders can cause a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Other symptoms include: Weight gain or loss Sleep problems Feelings of guilt or worthlessness Changes in appetite Fatigue or lack of energy Constipation Problems concentrating Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide If you have 5 or more of these symptoms for most days of a two-week period, it’s important to seek help from a depression or mental health professional. Symptoms may be due to other conditions. Treatment will depend on the cause.