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Depressive Disorders

A depressive disorder is not a passing blue mood but rather persistent feelings of sadness and worthlessness and a lack of desire to engage in formerly pleasurable activities. A complex mind/body illness, depression can be treated with drugs and/or therapy.

  • 1) Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood
  • 2) Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • 3) Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • 4) Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • 5) Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • 6) Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • 7) Insomnia, early morning awakening or oversleeping
  • 8) Appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
  • 9) Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • 10) Restlessness, irritability
  • 11) Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain

There is no single known cause of depression. Rather, it likely results from a combination of genetic, biochemical, environmental, and psychological factors.

Research indicates that depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. Brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have shown that the brains of people who have depression look different than those of people without depression. The parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior appear to function abnormally. In addition, important neurotransmitters—chemicals that brain cells use to communicate—appear to be out of balance. But these images do not reveal why the depression has occurred.