Depression is more than just the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. According to the National Institutes of Health, depression is most likely the result of a combination of biological, genetic, psychological, and social factors. “We don’t really know what causes depression,” says Victor Schwartz, MD, chief medical officer for the JED Foundation, a nonprofit that works to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for teens and young adults. For many people, the episodes can be precipitated by a loss or a life change that is disturbing, he says, while others have internally driven episodes that come out of the blue. Certain medical conditions such as an underactive thyroid, cancer, and heart disease can trigger depression, as can hormonal imbalances that happen after childbirth and at menopause. “Medications (such as sedatives, sleeping pills, and high blood pressure medication) and substance abuse can also precipitate symptoms of depression,” says Dr. Schwartz. Here are 8 warning signs of depression you should look out for.
Depression comes in many forms, but the most prominently diagnosed form and the one that most often requires depression medication is major depressive disorder (MDD), also known as clinical depression. According to the American Anxiety and Depression Association of America, MDD affects more than 6 percent of adults in the United States (16 million people) and is the leading cause of disability in the United States in the 15 to 44 age group. “Diagnosing depression is not easy,” says Peter Economou, PhD, cognitive behavioral therapy specialist and director at the Counseling and Wellness Center based in New York and New Jersey. “It’s not like a strep test—there is no positive or negative result with mental health because there are an infinite number of variables that can contribute to depression.” To diagnose clinical depression, many doctors use the symptom criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. Patients have to exhibit five or more of the listed symptoms over a two-week period to be diagnosed. Make sure you know these 14 dangerous misconceptions about depression.