Five Key Things To Know About Depression

Rates of depression have been climbing over the past decade, with an estimated 16 million U.S. adults now suffering from the condition.  Several high-profile suicides over the past week have raised even more awareness of depression, mood disorders and suicide.

Here are five important things to know about diagnosing, treating and surviving depression.

1. How is depression diagnosed?

           Depression can be diagnosed by a trained health care provider based on a patient’s symptoms and physical exam.  

           Here are the criteria we use to diagnose major depression:

           Depressed mood and loss of interest or pleasure that lasts for two weeks or more, as well as at least four of the following symptoms:

2What causes depression?

            Depression is a complex, multi-faceted problem that can be caused by multiple factors, including abnormal brain chemistry, genetic propensity to mood disorders, hormonal imbalances, traumatic experiences, medical issues, medication side effects and gender (women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men.)

3. How is depression treated?      

             Because depression has many causes, the treatment of depression varies.  Treatment also depends on how severe a patient’s symptoms are. Usually health care providers rule out medical causes of depression (such as Vitamin D deficiency and thyroid disorders).  Once medical causes are ruled out, we recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and, in some cases, antidepressant medication.

             In addition, there are other things patients can do to alleviate depression.  Smiling, eating a healthy diet, getting exercise, being outdoors and spending time with loved ones have all been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression.

4.  How long does it take to recover from depression?

             It’s important to remember that there is no quick fix for depression.  Therapy usually lasts for at least three months, and antidepressants are usually prescribed for at least six months.  But with appropriate treatment, as well as patience and perseverance, it is possible to survive depression.  

5. What do I do if I’m depressed?

             If you or a loved one are suffering from untreated depression, here are a few steps you can take to get started on the path to mental health wellness.

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At Golden Gate Urgent Care, we want you to be as happy and healthy as possible!  Make an appointment online or simply walk in to any of our six Bay Area locations to get the care you need.

Author
Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on MSNBC.com. She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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