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Symptoms and Treatment of Depression

People with depression discuss how they got help.

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RODOLFO: I didn't want to face anyone; I didn't want to talk to anyone. I didn't really want to do anything for myself because I felt so, I felt like I was such an awful person that there was no real reason for me to do anything for myself.

NARRATOR: Depression is more than just a feeling of being down in the dumps or blue for a few days. It is a serious illness that affects many people. Symptoms can vary, but many depressed people lose interest in activities they normally enjoyed, have feelings of sadness, guilt, and worthlessness, and have trouble concentrating.

RODOLFO: I couldn't sit down for a minute really to do anything that took deep concentration. I tried a journal and I tried to do things but I couldn't do that, I couldn't. I didn't read a book, didn't really do, I barely went to class. I wouldn't get out of the house. I was in college so I wouldn't go to classes at all. I gained a lot of weight.

NARRATOR: A person with depression can feel irritable and restless, and have sleep problems.

RODOLFO: Sometimes I would sleep only 3 hours a night or cause I couldn't sleep for weeks. And then but most of the time the opposite happened, where I would sleep 10, 12, 15 hours a day even.

NARRATOR: People who are depressed can feel numb and tired all the time. In some cases it can even lead to thoughts of suicide.

RODOLFO: It was like I had big huge weights on my legs and I was trying to swim and just kept sinking. And I'd get a little bit of air, just enough to survive and then I'd go back down again. It was just constantly, constantly just fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting.

NARRATOR: Depression is a real and complex illness that is not yet completely understood. We do know that the brains of people with depression are different from those without the illness, but we aren't sure why. Scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health are studying brain images of people who suffer from depression trying to learn why it affects some people but not others.

Treatments for depression do work. One type of effective psychotherapy is called cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. CBT can help you change ways of thinking and behaving that may be damaging or contribute to depression.

RODOLFO: I had one really good therapist and through her I think I started really thinking about that I did have depression.

NARRATOR: Medications called antidepressants can also help.

NIMH researchers are getting closer to figuring out exactly how these medications work, who benefits from them the most, and how to make better, more effective ones.

For many people, a combination of medication and psychotherapy may be the best choice. Depression can be successfully treated in many people, but sometimes treatments fall short.

For this reason, NIMH continues to study the genetic, biological and environmental factors that influence depression so that new and better treatments can be developed.

RODOLFO: With people it became easier. I totally think it is a lot easier when people know. I think that was one of the key things that helped me do it, so that I wasn't doing it all alone.

NARRATOR: If you have depression, telling friends, family, or someone you trust, and finding a doctor or therapist are the first steps on the road to recovery. Depression treatment can take time to work, so don't give up.

Read more about depression on this Web page. If the symptoms fit, get help now.