The Lowdown on Depression
Keeping Brooklyn Healthy

The Lowdown on Depression

Depression is a serious but treatable medical condition - a brain disease - that can strike anyone, including men. In America alone, more than six million men suffer from depression. As many as two-thirds of people with depression don’t realize they have a treatable illness and don’t seek professional help.

Most likely, depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. Longstanding theories suggest that neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine - chemicals that brain cells use to communicate - are out of balance in depression. Brain-imaging technologies such as MRI have shown that the brains of people with depression look different from those of people without depression. But these images don’t reveal why the depression has occurred and can’t be used to diagnose depression.

Some types of depression tend to run in families. Yet depression can happen in people without family histories of depression, too. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Some research indicates that risk for depression results from several genes acting together with environmental or other factors. Trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other episodes may happen with or without an obvious trigger.

Left untreated, depression can lead to personal, family and financial difficulties. But with appropriate diagnosis and treatment, which can include medications and therapy, most people recover.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being slowed down
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Persistent physical symptoms

If these signs and symptoms describe you or a man that you care about, talk to your healthcare provider.

The federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a Services Locator for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs and resources nationwide at http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/index.aspx

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