Depression: What Is It?

It's natural to feel down sometimes, but if that low mood lingers day after day, it could signal depression. Major depression is an episode of sadness or apathy along with other symptoms that lasts at least two consecutive weeks and is severe enough to interrupt daily activities. Depression is not a sign of weakness or a negative personality. It is a major public health problem and a treatable medical condition.

Depression Symptoms: Emotional

The primary symptoms of depression are a sad mood and/or loss of interest in life. Activities that were once pleasurable lose their appeal. Patients may also be haunted by a sense of guilt or worthlessness, lack of hope, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

Depression Symptoms: Physical

Depression is sometimes linked to physical symptoms. These include:

  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Insomnia, especially early-morning waking
  • Excessive sleep
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

Depression can make other health problems feel worse, particularly chronic pain. Key brain chemicals influence both mood and pain. Treating depression has been shown to improve co-existing illnesses.

Depression Symptom: Appetite

Changes in appetite or weight are another hallmark of depression. Some patients develop increased appetite, while others lose their appetite altogether. Depressed people may experience serious weight loss or weight gain.

Impact on Daily Life

Without treatment, the physical and emotional turmoil brought on by depression can derail careers, hobbies, and relationships. People with depression often find it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. They turn away from previously enjoyable activities, including sex. In severe cases, depression can become life-threatening.

Suicide Warning Signs

People who are depressed are more likely to attempt suicide. Warning signs include talking about death or suicide, threatening to hurt people, or engaging in aggressive or risky behavior. Anyone who appears suicidal should be taken very seriously. Do not hesitate to call one of the suicide hotlines: 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) and 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).If you have a plan to commit suicide, go to the emergency room for immediate treatment.

Causes of Depression

Doctors aren't sure what causes depression, but a prominent theory is altered brain structure and chemical function. Brain circuits that regulate mood may work less efficiently during depression. Drugs that treat depression are believed to improve communication between nerve cells, making them run more normally. Experts also think that while stress -- such as losing a loved one -- can trigger depression, one must first be biologically prone to develop the disorder. Other triggers could include certain medications, alcohol or substance abuse, hormonal changes, or even the season.

Fibroadenoma

If your doctor has told you that you have a “fibroadenoma” in your breast, don’t panic. It’s not cancer.

These lumps are the most common breast lump in young women. Many times, they will shrink and disappear with no treatment. In other cases, doctors can remove it with a quick procedure in their office.

You Might Not Know It's There

A fibroadenoma is a benign, or noncancerous, breast tumor. Unlike a breast cancer, which grows larger over time and can spread to other organs, a fibroadenoma remains in the breast tissue.

They’re pretty small, too. Most are only 1 or 2 centimeters in size. It’s very rare for them to get larger than 5 centimeters across.

Usually, a fibroadenoma won’t cause any pain. It will feel like a marble that moves around beneath your skin. You may describe the texture as firm, smooth, or rubbery. In some cases, though, you won’t even be able to feel it at all.

Causes

Doctors don’t know what causes fibroadenomas. They may be related to changing levels of hormones, since they often appear during puberty or pregnancy and go away after menopause.

Symptoms

Since they’re usually painless, you might not notice one until you feel a lump while you’re in the shower or if you do a breast self-exam.

Other times, a doctor may notice a fibroadenoma before you do, either during a routine physical or a mammogram or other scan.

Unlike breast cancer, a fibroadenoma does not cause nipple discharge, swelling, redness, or skin irritation around the breast.

Who Gets Them?

Fibroadenomas are very common. About 10% of women have one of these breast lumps, often without ever knowing.

They most often appear in women between the ages of 15 and 35, or during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Some researchers have found that women with a family history of breast cancer are more likely to get fibroadenomas.

Most women only have one. But about 10% to 15% of women who get them have more than one, either simultaneously or over time.

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