Depression and Anxiety
November 2, 2009
Dr. Art Williams
Depression: When the Blues Don't Go Away
Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad, but these feelings usually pass within a couple of days. When a person has depression, it interferes with his or her daily life and routine, such as going to work or school, taking care of children, and relationships with family and friends. Depression causes pain for the person who has it and for those who care about him or her.
Depression is a common, but serious, illness. Treatment can help those with even the most severe depression get better.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Not everyone diagnosed with depression will have all of these symptoms. The signs and symptoms may be different in men, women, younger children and older adults.
Can a person have depression and another illness at the same time?
Often, people have other illnesses along with depression. Sometimes other illnesses come first, but other times the depression comes first. Each person and situation is different, but it is important not to ignore these illnesses and to get treatment for them and the depression. Some illnesses or disorders that may occur along with depression are:
Studies have found that treating depression can help in treating these other illnesses.
When does depression start?
Young children and teens can get depression but it can occur at other ages also. Depression is more common in women than in men, but men do get depression too. Loss of a loved one, stress and hormonal changes, or traumatic events may trigger depression at any age.
Is there help?
There is help for someone who has depression. Even in severe cases, depression is highly treatable. The first step is to visit a doctor. Your family doctor or a health clinic is a good place to start. A doctor can make sure that the symptoms of depression are not being caused by another medical condition. A doctor may refer you to a mental health professional.
The most common treatments of depression are psychotherapy and medication. Several types of psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," can help people with depression. For mild to moderate depression, psychotherapy may be the best treatment option. However, for major depression or for certain people, psychotherapy may not be enough. For teens, a combination of medication and psychotherapy may work the best to treat major depression and help keep the depression from happening again.
Medications help balance chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Different types of medications affect different chemicals in the brain. Medications affect everyone differently. Sometimes several different types have to be tried before finding the one that works. If you start taking medication, tell your doctor about any side effects right away. Depending on which type of medication, possible side effects include:
FDA warning on antidepressants
Despite the fact that antidepressants are generally safe and reliable, some studies have shown that they may have unintentional effects on some people, especially young people. In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviewed data from studies of antidepressants that involved nearly 4,400 children and teenagers being treated for depression. The review showed that 4 percent of those who took antidepressants thought about or attempted suicide (although no suicides occurred), compared to 2 percent of those who took sugar pills (placebo).
This information prompted the FDA, in 2005, to adopt a "black box" warning label on all antidepressant medications to alert the public about the potential increased risk of suicidal thinking or attempts in children and teenagers taking antidepressants. In 2007, the FDA proposed that makers of all antidepressant medications extend the black box warning on their labels to include young patients through age 24 who take these medications for depression treatment.
Results of a review of pediatric trials between 1988 and 2006 suggested that the benefits of antidepressant medications likely outweigh their risks to children and adolescents with major depression and anxiety disorders.
People with anxiety disorders feel extremely fearful and unsure. Most people feel anxious about something for a short time now and again, but people with anxiety disorders feel this way most of the time. Their fears and worries make it hard for them to do everyday tasks. About 18 percent of American adults have anxiety disorders. Children also may have them.
Treatment is available for people with anxiety disorders. Researchers also are looking for new treatments that will help relieve symptoms.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
All of us worry about things like health, money or family problems at one time or another. But people with GAD are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. They may be very anxious about just getting through the day. They think things will always go badly. At times, worrying keeps people with GAD from doing everyday tasks.
This is a list of common symptoms. People with GAD:
Common physical symptoms are:
When does GAD start?
GAD develops slowly. Symptoms may get better or worse at different times, and often are worse during times of stress.
People with GAD may visit a doctor many times before they find out they have this disorder. They ask their doctors to help them with the signs of GAD, such as headaches or trouble falling asleep, but don't always get the help they need right away. It may take doctors some time to be sure that a person has GAD instead of something else.
Is there help?
There is help for people with GAD. The first step is to go to a doctor or health clinic to talk about symptoms. The doctor will do an exam to make sure that another physical problem isn't causing the symptoms. The doctor may make a referral to a mental health specialist.
Doctors may prescribe medication to help relieve GAD. It's important to know that some of these medicines may take a few weeks to start working. In most states only a medical doctor (a family doctor or psychiatrist) can prescribe medications.
Doctors also may ask people with GAD to go to therapy with a licensed social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist. This treatment can help people with GAD feel less anxious and fearful.