Depression can affect anyone ranging from mild depressive episodes to severe. In this article we will look at possible treatments for this common disorder.

Depression is related to other conditions such as anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders. It creates a sub-family of neurological classifications, which be treated pharmacologically. Indeed, scientific understanding aside, societies throughout human history have sought and found at least partially effective treatments for depression.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, from the American Psychiatric Association (DSM IV), depression is classified as a mood disorder. Mild or temporary types of depression are called depressive episodes. Multiple mood episodes in a relatively short period of time or more continuous depression is called major depression.

It is estimated that over 5% of the U.S. population suffers from major depression, and that 10-20% of Americans will suffer from at least one bout of major depression during their lifetime. A somewhat lower figure, perhaps 6%, is thought to constitute the incidence of major depression in a lifetime worldwide. For decades, depressive disorders have been under-diagnosed and under-treated. Fortunately this is changing, and both the medical profession and public is emphasizing the importance of treating major depression in a variety of ways.

Major depression is a complex disorder of the nervous system and there are many scientific postulates about the underlying causes. Perhaps the most dominant theory in this complex arena is the biogenic amine hypothesis, and related modifications. This framework has been so prevalent that the design of most anti-depressant drugs in the last few decades has arisen from it. By biogenic amines, in this case, we basically mean the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, both of which are prominently found in various important pathways in the brain.

Serotonin has been a major focus in the last decade or two. The basic idea of the biogenic amine hypothesis is that depressed people have abnormally low levels of one or both of these neurotransmitters in brain regions critical to mood, or that systems responsible for signaling the presence of these neurotransmitters are less responsive than normal. The major goal of pharmacotherapy then, at least at a superficial level, is to increase serotonin and/or norepinephrine levels in the brain, or to increase responsiveness to these substances.

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