KEY FACTS ABOUT DEPRESSION
- Depression is a common mental disorder having more than 264 million people of all ages suffering from it.
- It can lead to suicide.
- Women are affected more than men by this disorder.
- It is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
- There are effective psychological and pharmacological treatments for moderate and severe depression.
In this article, you will learn what depression actually is! You will also have a nice overview about the symptoms, causes, types, diagnosis and treatment of this disorder.
You might like to read the correlation of depression with suicide and sadness. Moreover, knowing about various myths and misconceptions linked to depression will make this article quite interesting for you.
Depression is a very common and serious mental disorder that may result in persistent feelings of sadness along with significant loss of interest. It can considerably affect how you feel, think and behave. Thus, it can eventually lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.
Once affected you may have trouble doing normal daily activities. Sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living and often get trapped with very strong suicidal thoughts.
Although depression affects people of all ages, yet the symptoms experienced by men, women and children may vary from one another. Inspite of that, these symptoms can generally be categorised into physical and mental spheres. The most prominent symptoms observed are as follows:
- Lack of energy, tiredness, changes in appetite and digestive system.
- Constant feeling of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness and low self-esteem.
- Enhancement in the sudden mood-swings such as irritability, frustration, extreme anger, aggressiveness, anxiety and restlessness.
- Prominent changes in behavioural patterns such as loss of interest in sex, hobbies, sports and other daily activities.
- Changes in cognitive abilities such as concentrating, making decisions and solving simple problems.
- Changes in sleep patterns like lack of sleep, or excessive sleep.
- Recurrent suicidal thoughts, which may often lead to suicide attempts.
- Various unexplained physical, mental and emotional problems such as pains, reckless behaviour. Some people may feel extremely miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.
By now you must be very curious to know exactly what causes depression. My simple answer to this would be – it is still an open question in the medical field.
While many illnesses have well known causes, making their treatment quite straight forward, the situation with depression is actually far more complicated. As with many mental disorders, a variety of factors may be involved, such as
- Biological Factors: Many depression patients are found to have biological deformities in their brain structure. The reason for this unique deformation is not yet clear but it is indeed one of the major factor for this illness.
- Brain Chemistry and Functioning: Brain secretes a chemical called Neurotransmitter which enables neurotransmission inside the brain and helps in the proper functioning of the brain. As per the latest research, any considerable change in the nature or interaction of these neurotransmitters with the neural-circuits (which helps in maintaining the mental balance) can play a significant role in causing depression.
- Hormonal Factors: Considerable changes in the body’s hormonal levels is also an important cause of depression. Postpartum-Depression in pregnant women after delivery is a well known example. Though, the thyroid problem, menopause/or abnormal periods in females along with number of other conditions can also create hormonal imbalances and thereby trigger depression.
- Genetic Factors: Studies also reveal that people with depression happen to inherit this condition directly from their family genes.
- Psychological & Social Factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abusive relationship, and social bias can also contribute in triggering this disorder. For example people who have gone through tough times for prolonged duration (unemployment, psychological trauma) are more likely to develop this illness.
Depending on the number and severity of the symptoms, the depression can generally be labeled as mild, moderate or severe. However, based on the range of conditions and their specific symptoms, here are some of the most common types:
- Major Depression: It is also called Major Depressive Disorder, Clinical Depression, Unipolar Depression or simply ‘Depression’. A person suffering from major depression experiences a constant state of sadness accompanied with lack of interest in the activities that he/she used to enjoy.
- Melancholia: It is a severe form of depression which involves mostly physical symptoms of depression. The affected person exhibits very slow physical movements. Here the person tends to remain in a sad mood along with complete loss of interest in everything.
- Psychotic Depression: Some people with depression sometimes lose the sense of reality and start experiencing psychosis. Such people may experience hallucinations (perceiving something that isn’t really there like hearing voices or feeling someone’s touch) or delusions which may also involve paranoia (here a person may falsely believe that some person is controlling his every physical and mental action).
- Prenatal and Postnatal Depression: Owing to the readjustment in hormone levels many women experience this disorder during pregnancies called prenatal depression and the year following the child birth called as postnatal or postpartum depression. However, during the days immediately after the birth, many women (almost 75-80%) experience ‘baby-blues’, which is also related to readjustment in the hormone levels, is a bit different from postpartum depression.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder: It is also known as dysthymia. Its symptoms are same as major depression but are less severe. A person having dysthymia experiences milder depression for more than two years.
- Bipolar Disorder: Also known as manic depression because the person experiences periods of depression and periods of mania (excessive excitement or euphoria), with periods of normal mood in between. It involves serious shifts in moods, energy levels, thinking process and behavioural patterns.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): SAD is a mood disorder that has seasonal patterns. Though unclear yet the cause of this disorder is attributed to the variation in light exposure in different seasons. People with SAD depression are more likely to experience a lack of energy, abnormal sleeping patterns and overeating habits.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
Depression is absolutely treatable. In addition, there are a range of effective treatments, medications and health professionals who can help you on the way to recovery.
Medical Treatment: If you are experiencing moderate to severe depression your doctor may prescribe you antidepressant medication along with psychological treatments. People with more severe forms of depression like bipolar disorder and psychosis generally need to be treated with antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs.
Psychological Treatment: Also known as talking therapies, such treatments can also help you cope up with various types of depression. Based on the type and severity of the symptoms, following are the most prominent psychological treatments:
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT): CBT is well structured psychological treatment which takes into account, that the way we think (cognitive) and the way we act (behave) affects the way we feel. It involves working with a professional therapist to identify thought and behaviour patterns which are actually making you depressed.
- InterPersonal Therapy (IPT): This is also a structured psychological therapy that focuses on the problems in personal relationships and the skills needed to deal with these.
- Behaviour Therapy: While this therapy is a major component of CBT, however it doesn’t attempt to change the beliefs and attitudes. Instead it focuses on encouraging activities that are rewarding, pleasant and brings about satisfaction.
- Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT): Apart from having cognitive therapy components, it involves using a type of meditation called ‘mindfulness meditation’ to treat the person with depression.
Other Support System: In addition to the above two distinct treatment methods, you can also get involved with a variety of ways to handle the depression provided they are backed by science. These may involve – maintaining a healthy lifestyle, spending quality time with family and friends, getting awareness about depression, its possible treatments and participating in various online support forums on depression.
DEPRESSION & SUICIDE
Though one of the major factors for suicide, depression is not the only factor. There are plenty of other reasons as well for a person to commit suicide. It often happens that people with no signs of depression may decide to end their life. The reason could be case dependent but in general such people find it extremely tough to cope up with their existing grave situations like extreme poverty, unhealthy relationships, persisting unemployment or well directed prejudice.
DEPRESSION & STRESS
Being sad or stressed is not the same as being depressed. In our day to day conversation this technical term ‘depression’ is almost used with such a non-serious manner that even a mild sadness or stress is mistaken as depression. In reality, a mild sadness or stress can be easily wiped off with some instant mood-lifters like playing games, listening to music, hanging around with friends and so on. But depression needs special attention from trained medical professionals.
MYTHS LINKED TO DEPRESSION
Despite being classified as a mental disorder and being tagged as a major contributor to the diseases around the globe, many myths and misconceptions about depression still persist in our society. People with depression often face prejudice due to stigma attached to the mental disorders. To fight this prejudice and stigma, it is important to learn the facts about depression and myths linked to depression. Here are some of the common myths:
- Depression is same as being sad or stressed
- Depression is linked to people with weak personality traits
- Depression is not a big issue and exist only due to your wrong perceptions
- Depression can be cured repeating some ‘mantras’ (sacred religious text), doing exercise, or doing yoga
- Depression is always caused by some traumatic incident
- Depression can only be cured by antidepressants
TAKE HOME LESSON
Becoming aware and learning the facts about depression is very vital in understanding this mental disorder. You may not reach your destination if you don’t even know where you are going. Understanding the exact cause of your depression may help you determine the appropriate treatment.
For instance, if you are depressed due to an abusive relationship with someone, it is time to move away from that relation rather than taking antidepressant.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the scientific community for their contribution in helping us understand this disorder. I also express my thanks to all the offline and online resources (enlisted below) that were considered in framing this article. If you want more information regarding this disorder, you may like to visit the following resources:
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