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Decadent luxuries, dazzling technology, and startling new knowledge flood the senses and excite the imagination. What was the domain of science fiction less than a generation ago is now commonplace in many living rooms. Today, cable companies beam recently released movies to inches-thick televisions that hang on walls. All you have to do is press a few buttons on your remote control and your home is a cinema. And, with a couple of mouse clicks, you can order a pizza online that arrives in time for the start of the movie.

In the field of healthcare, advancing knowledge of the immune system promises new cancer treatments that go to the source of the disease. Nanotechnology eventually will allow inconceivably small machines to clean out congested arteries like a plumber’s snake. And the human genome project begins to solve the mysteries behind countless inherited diseases.

Truly, life has never been so good and bountiful. What a wonderful time to be alive. Sure, the world still has plenty of problems, but solutions for many of them lie on the horizon.

Yet the World Health Organization paints a less optimistic picture. It estimates that on any given day, 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Over the course of a year, almost 6 percent of the world’s men and fewer than 10 percent of the women suffer an episode of depression. Depression rates continue to increase. And most experts believe that the increase is real—not just a result of more people seeking help. Today, kids exhibit depression at nearly ten times the rate of previous generations.

Theories abound concerning the alarming increase in depression today. But regardless of the cause, this scourge robs its victims of happiness, joy, and the capacity to give and receive love.

The good news is that more weapons exist for defeating depression than ever before. Clinicians have devised new psychotherapies that have been verified as effective in treating depression and preventing relapse. Furthermore, science is beginning to understand the delicate relationship between mood and brain chemistry. Medications that target specific chemicals provide important additional tools for the alleviation of depression. The vast majority of people no longer need to suffer with long-standing, intractable depression.

A Note to Our Depressed Readers

We’re keenly aware of the pain and profound despair you may be experiencing. Likely, your sense of humor is depleted. With this book, we attempt to lighten an exquisitely somber subject with tidbits of humor. Some of you may take offense with our attempts or even feel diminished or discounted by this decision. We can understand that reaction. At the same time, your long-term goals need to include rediscovering laughter. Thus, we hope you can try to take our occasional use of wit in the manner we intend it—as another way to help you lift yourself out of the fog of depression.

In addition, we realize that the title Depression For Dummies may seem offensive to some, especially because when people are depressed, they’re prone to make negative, personalized interpretations (see Part II for more information on this topic). However, we assure you that the content of this book is as serious and in-depth as any book on depression. The For Dummies format simply enables us to present important material in easily digestible segments. We leave it up to you to determine if we succeed in doing so. Please contact us if you wish to receive a selected bibiography from this book.

About This Book

We have two primary goals in writing this book. First, we want you to understand the nature of depression. Understanding depression makes the idea of dealing with it less frightening. Second, we present what you’re probably most interested in discovering—how to overcome your depression or help someone you love who has depression.

We leave no stone unturned in our quest to bring you every possible means for battling depression. We draw strategies for defeating depression from the fields of medicine and psychotherapy. We tell you about the newest arsenal of medications that can combat depression. We show you how focusing on your overall health with exercise and nutrition can pay off. Plus, we extract elements from the psychotherapeutic approaches that have stood up to the tests of rigorous research and been verified as highly effective treatments for depression. These approaches include

•Cognitive therapy

•Behavior therapy

•Interpersonal and relationship therapy

Then we go one-step further. We turn to the new field of positive psychology for ideas on navigating your way from feeling good again to feeling even better. We want you to make your life more joyful and more meaningful.

Depression For Dummies offers you the best advice available based on scientific research. We believe that, if you practice the techniques and strategies we provide in this book, you’ll very likely feel better. For many people, this book may be a complete guide for defeating mild to moderate depression. Numerous studies show that self-help often works.

However, depression frequently needs more care and attention than you can receive through self-help. If your depression significantly hinders your ability to work or play, you need to get professional help. No book can completely replace therapy. Start by seeing your family doctor. If you’re seeing a therapist or counselor, you may find that Depression For Dummies can help augment your therapy. Be sure to discuss that possibility with your therapist. Depression can be conquered; please don’t give up.

How This Book Is Organized

We organize Depression For Dummies into 7 parts and 22 chapters. Right now, we’re going to tell you a little about each part.

Part I: Discovering Depression and Preparing a Plan

Explores the costs of depression in economic, social, and emotional terms. We describe what depression looks like and provide an overview of the best means for treating depression.

Part II: Untwisting Your Thinking: Thought Therapy

Shows you how certain habitual ways of thinking can be a major contributor to depression. A number of chapters combine to give you a large toolbox of techniques for changing these dark, distorted thoughts into realistic appraisals of yourself, your world, and your future.

Part III: Taking Action Against Depression: Behavior Therapy

This part shows you how to short-circuit “do-nothingism” and slowly regain confidence and joy. We give you a mental boost to get moving again through exercise and rediscovering healthy pleasures.

Part IV: Rebuilding Connections: Relationship Therapy

Depression has a way of disrupting relationships with friends, family, partners, and other loved ones. And relationship problems can worsen depression. We cover issues such as communicating in healthy ways and coping with loss and grief.

Part V: Fighting the Physical Foe: Biological Therapies

We review antidepressant medications, from the earliest to the most recent, and give you important information regarding their effectiveness and side effects. We also give you some tools for helping make the decision as to whether or not medications make sense for you and your depression. We explore the role of herbs, supplements, and nutrition in alleviating depression and review a few alternative physiologically based treatments for depression, such as light therapy.

Part VI: Looking Beyond Depression

We have every reason to believe that the information in the first five parts, perhaps in conjunction with professional help, will lift you out of your depression. But what do you do next? Part VI tells you how to deal with possible relapses in the future. This part tells you how to reduce the likelihood of such slips and how to deal with them if they do occur. Next, we discuss a new approach, called mindful acceptance that has recently been found to be very helpful for reducing depression relapse.

Part VII: The Part of Tens

If you want quick ideas on how to deal with a bad mood, you can find them here. Then we show you ten ways to help your kids if they get depressed. We conclude with ten ways to help a friend or lover overcome depression.