Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Clinically significant depression is marked by persistent sadness, a depressed mood, diminished interest in previously enjoyable activities, and other symptoms that interfere with the ability to function in daily life.
The condition often arises from a complex combination of factors that can include genetics, family history, trauma, stress, and illness. It is one of the most common mental disorders, impacting an estimated 7.1% of all adults in the U.S. each year.??
Fortunately, effective treatments are available including medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Self-help strategies can also help people better cope with their symptoms and begin to feel better.
Appropriate treatment for depression is essential, but self-help strategies can also help you feel better. Some things that can help you cope with feelings of depression include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, finding social support, and engaging in regular physical activity. While depression can make these things more challenging, tackling one or two tasks each day can help improve your well-being.
Some ways that you can support a friend or loved one with depression include offering support and avoiding judgment. Offer to help with tasks that your friend might be struggling with. Let them know you care, ask them what you can do to help, and encourage them to talk to their doctor. Learn more about depression so you can better understand ways you can help.
While depression appears to have some genetic risk factors, there is no identifiable gene for depression. However, research suggests that it is the interaction of genetics and environmental factors that contribute to the condition’s onset. You may have a genetic predisposition to depression, but this does not necessarily mean that you will develop the condition.
While there is no “cure” for depression, it is a treatable condition that can often be alleviated with the use of medications, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications. Antidepressants can be effective, but they often take some time to begin working. While such medications may be used alone, they are also often prescribed in conjunction with psychotherapy.