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An antidepressant is a medication used to treat depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are one common type of antidepressant and are usually the first choice of medication for GPs. They include drugs like citalopram, escitalopram, paroxetine, fluoxetine, and sertraline. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) are another type of antidepressant and include amitriptyline, clomipramine, dibenzepine, and doxepine.
Adjustment disorder occurs when a person experiences depression and/or anxiety that is clearly in response to an identifiable recent stressor or stressors, such as changes in marital status, employment, mourning, etc.
Anxiety disorder is a mental disorder characterised by anxiety so severe that it interferes with everyday life. Some people with depression also have overlapping anxiety disorders but practically all depressed people show at least some symptoms of anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety include, for example excessive worrying, feeling "on edge”, racing heart, and nausea.
Anxiolytics are medications that relieve anxiety. Most are from a class called benzodiazepines. These are medications recommended for short–term use only, because after 4 to 6 weeks of continuous daily use, they cause addiction. Negative effects on behaviour are frequent in older people.
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Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that is characterised by mood swings between depression and mania or hypomania. This condition used to be called manic depression (see our section on 'Subtypes of Depression' in the 'For All' tab).
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Dysthymia is a type of chronic depression that is less severe than major depression. It can also last for years. Dysthymia may not disable a person, but it prevents them from functioning normally or feeling well (see our section on 'subtypes of depression' in the 'For All' tab). Because of the chronic nature of dysthymia, patients may be prone to making statements such as, "I've always been this way," or "That's just how I am".
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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
ECT is a treatment that can be effective in severe cases of depression and which uses electrical current. It is safe, is not painful, and may be effective for depression that has not responded to drugs or therapy.
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Hypomania is a milder form of mania. Symptoms of hypomania typically include elevated mood, increased activity, decreased need for sleep, grandiosity, and racing thoughts.
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Major depression is the most typical type of depression, lasting for at least two weeks and interfering with daily life. It causes symptoms like sadness, loss of pleasure, low energy, fatigue, and feelings of hopelessness.
Mania is a phase of bipolar disorder and involves an abnormally elevated mood, characterised by feelings of euphoria, lack of inhibitions, racing thoughts, severe insomnia, rushed speech, risk taking, increased libido and irritability. In extreme cases, mania can induce hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms. It can be so extreme that it interferes with a person's life to a point that they need acute inpatient admission. Milder, less debilitating mania is called hypomania.
Mood stabilisers are a class of drugs used to treat some types of depression, like bipolar spectrum disorders. They include lithium and some drugs originally used to treat epileptic seizures, called anticonvulsants or antiepileptics.
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A neurotransmitter is a chemical substance in the brain, like serotonin or norepinephrine, that mediates messages between brain cells. Medicines that treat depression often alter the levels of these chemicals.
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A panic attack is a sudden feeling of intense fear or anxiety, accompanied by physical symptoms (like dizziness, nausea, palpitations and chest discomfort), that isn't triggered by a real danger. Panic attacks are common in many anxiety disorders and may happen in depression.
Postnatal depression is a form of depression that affects women who have given birth in the year prior to its onset. Many new mothers experience a brief episode of mildly depressed mood 2 to 5 days after delivery, which is known as the "baby blues”. However, some will suffer from postnatal depression, a much more serious condition (a depressive episode) that requires active treatment and emotional support for the new mother.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who is specialised in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Since psychiatrists are doctors, they can prescribe drugs like antidepressants, but some will also use psychotherapy.
Psychologists are professionals who may work in many different areas, such as research, teaching, administration or therapy. Clinical psychologists are psychologists who specialise in therapy. Clinical psychologists have received further training and specialisation in the treatment of mental or emotional disorders, such as depression and anxiety disorders, typically through the use of psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy is a way of treating a mental or emotional disorder (such as depression) by talking with a therapist. It may also be called "talking therapy" or "talk therapy."
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Unipolar depression is another name for major depressive disorder. The term unipolar depression is used to distinguish the disorder from depression or depressive episodes, which also occur within the context of bipolar disorder.