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Depression: What It Is and What You Can Do

Depression is a mood disorder categorized by persistent sadness and a general loss of interest. A staggering 1 in 5 Americans experience depression at some point during their lifetime, so you’re not alone if you suspect you may have depression.

Depression is a mood disorder categorized by persistent sadness and a general loss of interest or pleasure during the same two week period. In any given year, around 16.1 million adults will be affected by depression in the United States. So if you suspect you may have depression, you are not alone. 

Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Those who suffer may experience difficulty with routine tasks like getting out of bed, eating regular meals and other day to day activities of appropriate self-care. Depression is not just feeling “sad” or “unmotivated” — it is the continued and overwhelming presence of these feelings, even in the absence of an external cause.

How do I know if I have depression?

There is no simple answer to this question, because depression can look different for every person. However, there are a few places where you can start looking for help.

First, it’s helpful to know the main symptoms of depression. People with depression often:

  • Feel helpless or hopeless
  • Lose interest in simple pleasures or activities/hobbies they previously enjoyed
  • Experience disturbed eating and sleeping patterns
  • Frequently feel overly irritable or easily angered
  • Lack energy and motivation
  • Experience impaired concentration and ability to focus

If some of these common depression symptoms are familiar to you, you might benefit from taking a free self-assessment such as this one, which clinicians can use to measure depression severity.

This tool can also help track how you’re doing, so that you have a better sense of whether or not you should seek care. Of course, this is just an online tool. The assessment is not meant to replace the opinion of a mental health professional.

I think I have depression. What are my treatment options?

If you or someone you know is living with depression, there are many options for treatment. Some of the most popular options include psychotherapy and medication.


Psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) has many different subtypes. Three of the most popular types include: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.

CBT focuses on the connection between thoughts, behaviors and feelings and challenging negative thoughts and maladaptive behaviors that often trigger or exacerbate depressive symptoms. 

Interpersonal psychotherapy focuses on understanding you and your relationships with others. The main goal of interpersonal psychotherapy is to improve the quality of interpersonal relationships and social functioning to help reduce depressive symptoms.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on unconscious processes that are manifest themselves in the form of negative emotions, including depression and maladaptive behaviors that can worsen depressive symptoms. This type of therapy places an emphasis on interpreting mental processes to reveal the unconscious content that creates psychic tension and symptoms of depression. The goal with psychodynamic therapy is to find patterns in yourself and, as a result, gain better self-understanding. 

Therapists often use a blend of all three approaches.

Medication for Depression

Another popular treatment option to alleviate depression is medications. Over 60% of people who choose to use antidepressants report a reduction in their depressive symptoms. Medication can be an effective, long-term solution.

Many people choose to use either psychotherapy or medication alone, and many use both. In fact, research shows the combination of both produces the best outcomes compared to treatment with either approach alone.

However, what works for one person might not work for another. Thus, it is important to remember that your mental health journey is a personal and individual path

Luckily, personalizing your mental health journey is getting easier. Today, technology like genetic testing (sometimes also called pharmacogenomic testing) helps guide clinicians to make more individualized recommendations for your care.

Your genes drive up to 90% of your response to a medication, including how likely you are to experience adverse side effects. By understanding your genetic makeup, you may save yourself months of trial and error with different antidepressants.


And remember, no matter what treatment you do or do not choose to try, there is help out there. Even though your journey is unique, you don’t have to be on your own. 

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Fri Sep 11 2020

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