Depression ----- How Medicine Can Help
What is depression?
Depression is a medical illness like diabetes or high blood pressure. It affects about 17% or people at some time in their lives. It's twice as common in women as in men. Symptoms of depression include the following:
• Feeling sad most of the day, nearly every day, for two weeks or
• Loss or interest in things you used to like and enjoy
• Lack of energy
• Sleep and appetite disturbances
• Weight changes
• Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness
• Not being able to make decisions
• Thoughts of death and suicide
Is it my fault I'm depressed?
The answer is "no." Depression is an illness, not something you choose to get.
What causes depression?
The exact cause of depression is not known. Doctors think it may be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The imbalance could be caused by your genes. It could be caused by the effects of events in your life. It seems that sometimes there aren't enough chemical messengers (called neurotransmitters) in the brain. These neurotransmitters carry messages (nerve impulses) from one nerve cell to another. When there aren't enough of these messengers in a person with depression, certain messages don't get carried to some areas of the brain. Two primary messengers, called serotonin (say: seer-o-tone-in) and norepinephrine (say: nor-ep- in-nef-rin), are responsible for your moods (ho\v you feel).
More than 20 medicines are helpful in treating depression. These medicines are called antidepressants. They help increase the number of chemical messengers (serotonin and norepinephrine) that affect your mood
How will my doctor treat my depression?
Depression can be treated with medicines and counseling. The combination uf medicine with counseling helps most people. Counseling can help you change a negative view of yourself, of your past and of your future. Regular exercise and avoiding too much caffeine, alcohol and unauthorized substances can also be helpful.
More than 20 medicines are helpful in treating depression. These medicines are called antidepressants. They help increase the number of chemical messengers (serotonin and norepinephrine) that affect your mood.
Some of the possible side effects of tricyclic antidepressants are the following:
• Dry mouth
• Blurred vision
• Bladder problems
• Increased sleepiness
• Weight gain
• Excessive tiredness
• Hand tremors
• Muscle twitching
• Feeling of weakness
• Increased heart rate
• Dizziness when standing up
You have to be careful if you get sleepy or dizzy when you take tricyclic antidepressants. It's not good to drive or operate machines when you take them, because they affect your reflexes and your attention span.
SSRIs might have the following side effects:
• Dry mouth
• Sexual dysfunction (inability to ejaculate or to have an orgasm)
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Timothy L. Biliouris, M.D.
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