Research has shown that depression is influenced by both biological and environmental factors. Studies show that first degree relatives of people with depression have a higher incidence of the illness, whether they are raised with this relative or not, supporting the influence of biological factors. Situational factors, if nothing else, can exacerbate a depressive disorder in significant ways. Examples of these factors would include lack of a support system, stress, illness in self or loved one, legal difficulties, financial struggles, and job problems. These factors can be cyclical in that they can worsen the symptoms and act as symptoms themselves.
Symptoms of depression include the following:
depressed mood (such as feelings of sadness or emptiness)
reduced interest in activities that used to be enjoyed, sleep disturbances (either not being able to sleep well or sleeping to much)
loss of energy or a significant reduction in energy level
difficulty concentrating, holding a conversation, paying attention, or making decisions that used to be made fairly easily
suicidal thoughts or intentions.
Treatment can either combine both pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy or utilize one or the other individually. Medications used to treat this disorder include Prozac, Paxil, Wellbutrin, and Zoloft. Other medications can be found, along with their descriptions can be found in the Medications page. Psychotherapy is useful in helping the patient understand the factors involved in either creating or exacerbating the depressive symptomotology. Personal factors may include a history of abuse (physical, emotional, and/or sexual), maladaptive coping skills/ Environmental factors involved in this disorder include, among others, a poor social support system and difficulties related to finances or employment.
Major Depressive Disorder has a better prognosis than other mood disorders in that medication and therapy have been very successful in alleviating symptomotology. However, many people with this disorder find that it can be episodic, in that periodic stressors can bring back symptoms. In this case, it is often helpful to have an ongoing relationship with a mental health professional just as you would a physician if you had diabetes or high blood pressure.