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Depression affects about 5% of people significantly at any one time. It affects mood and brain function, disrupting sleep, home life, work and relationships.
The symptoms of depression are varied. They include tiredness all the time, persistent sadness without obvious cause, a sense of helplessness, loss of appetite and weight, weight gain through comfort eating, sleep disturbance, loss of interest in sex, memory problems and irritability and aggression.
Depression often follows stresses such as deaths, marital breakdowns, job loss or money worries. Changes in the body's hormones, such as after pregnancy, may also be a trigger. There is also a connection with the weather for some people - Seasonal Affective Disorder - which occurs in winter when there is little sunshine.
Once diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe some antidepressant medication. You will have to decide whether antidepressants are right for you based on your own circumstances and the advice of your doctor, but they can dramatically improve the situation. They are not addictive as they work by allowing your body to make better use of its own depleted neuro-transmitters. No drug is without side effects but the side effects of the modern antidepressants are much less than original ones.
Antidepressants take between two weeks and two months to have their full effect. You may see side effects at the beginning but these should lessen after a few days.
Your doctor will prescribe the best type of antidepressant to suit you. You should be guided by their advice, not the advice of a friend or neighbour. It is usually best to stay on your treatment for 3 to 6 months. By that time, if you stop the medication, you will usually be back to normal. It is often better to gradually reduce the dose of your antidepressants before stopping. You should discuss this with your doctor and if after stopping the drug you get either new symptoms or revert to being depressed, you should see the doctor again.