Dr. Mayberg shares if a woman can have depression due to another medical problem.
What people don’t understand is that depression is a word used to describe a set of symptoms, and in psychiatry, that’s how we get information about what someone is experiencing. They tell us what their symptoms are, and when the symptoms fall into certain categories, then we make diagnoses.
But, in fact, there are many medical conditions that can produce feelings of depression and actually produce all the signs and symptoms. And so it is very important that actually other causes of the symptoms are evaluated, and particularly when someone has a first presenting set of symptoms, that’s the time it’s very, very critical to make sure that there isn’t something reversible going on because, in fact, primary depression without other causes is a condition we are trying to research. We don’t know what causes it.
We know that life stress can precipitate a depression, but generally in people who are vulnerable. We know that people can have a depression out of nowhere even though nothing in their life is particularly bad. We used to refer to that as endogenous depression. It’s sort of a chemical depression. All the terms are really bad because we really don’t know what causes depression.
That said, there are medical conditions where symptoms of a depression are prominent and finding those, just like someone can have memory problems, it might be Alzheimer’s disease or it might be that you are having memory problems because of an associated medical condition, and if that medical condition is treated, the memory problems go away.
Same thing with depression. One wants to look for possible causes, medical causes, that if treated, the depression symptoms go away. And those kinds of conditions can be anemia, sort of low blood count, can be problems with the thyroid, it can be different hormonal imbalances, and so it is very important if one has symptoms of depression, or thinks one has symptoms of depression for the first time, to actually be seen by a generalist so that other potential, reversible causes can be identified.
About Dr. Mayberg, M.D., FRCPC:
Helen Mayberg, M.D., FRCPC, if a Professor of Psychiatry Neurology at Emory University School of Medicine. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology from the University of California and her medical degree from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. Her research concerns the characterization of neural systems mediating mood and emotions in health and disease using functional neuroimaging. Defining brain mechanisms underlying major depression is the primary goal, with an emphasis on development of algorithms that will discriminate patient subgroups, optimize treatment selection, and provide markers of disease vulnerability.