What is depression?
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
You should not take this as a diagnosis of any sort, or a recommendation for treatment. However, it would be advisable and likely beneficial for you to seek further diagnosis from a trained mental health professional soon to rule out a possible depressive disorder.
Take a trip inside your head to see what happens in your brain when you have depression. Hear depression sufferers talk about living with this devastating disorder, and top experts explain how depression feeds upon itself. Travel deep into the brain to zero in on the organs implicated in emotional disorders. Voyage deeper still to witness electrical impulses racing across neurons. Depression acts like a neurotoxin: view the chemicals that can cause those neurons to wither. Learn the factors that put you at risk. Discover which organs of the brain may atrophy, while others become too active. Hear a message of hope from someone who knows: even people with severe depression can become symptom-free.
Discover why depression is a very treatable disease. Find out why it’s essential to seek medical care if you have symptoms of depression—and why so many people with depression don’t. See just how untreated depression affects the physical structure of your brain. Journey inside to view, on a cellular level, how talk therapy can restore the normal functioning of your brain cells. Zoom down to the molecular level to observe the way in which antidepressants change the balance of your brain’s mood-affecting neurotransmitters. View the incredible network of blood vessels that feed your energy-hungry brain, making exercise and diet an essential part of treatment. Find out why the odds of successfully treating depression are very good.
Neurotransmitters, the chemicals released by axons at the neural synapses, are an important key to how emotions may be regulated in your brain. About 50 neurotransmitters have been identified.
It’s thought that in certain disease states the flow of these neurotransmitters between neurons may be faulty. Researchers have discovered associations between depression and three primary neurotransmitters: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Associations have also been found between depression and a less-common neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).