caregiver comforting woman with depression

Ask Dr. Bob: Are You Depressed, and What Can You Do About Depression?

We all have times when we feel bad, even guilty, about our lives, ourselves, our careers, or our futures. But for many people, this sad mood won’t go away and becomes a way of life. They may lack energy, have trouble concentrating, experience a change in appetite, or have sleep problems. It doesn’t do any good to tell them to just snap out of it. They would like to, but they can’t because they have a chronic disease called depression.

Anyone can get depressed at any age. In the United States, about 16 million adults are affected every year. While the exact cause is unknown, we believe it may be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

Fortunately, there are several treatments for depression to help reduce symptoms and shorten how long it lasts. Many people with depression find that taking prescribed medications helps improve their mood and coping skills. Others benefit from psychotherapy which involves talking to a behavioral health counselor about thoughts‚ feelings‚ and life issues. Still others are helped by combining drugs and therapy. Depressed people are also encouraged to make healthy lifestyle changes like improving diet, exercise, and sleep habits.

If you think that you or someone you know is suffering from depression, speak to your health care provider. The message here is that we have many ways we can help.

Be well!

Zufall founder Robert Zufall, M.D., is a retired urologist.

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