In this article, we’ll discuss everything that needs to be addressed for understanding depression, from how to recognize depression symptoms, to its causes and treatment.
Feeling down. Looking tired. Losing interest in daily activities. We all have faced these symptoms in our lives but seldom realize that they can be signs of a serious problem. Yes, I am talking about depression, a mental condition that is much in news nowadays due to its increased occurrence. However, I want to stress that feeling sad or down is natural and we should only worry about it if the situation persists for a long time.
So, for our own benefit, let us find out what is depression, its different types and symptoms and of course, how to deal with it.
Understanding depression – contents:
Clinically depression is defined as a major depressive disorder which is a feeling of sadness or low mood that continues for more than two weeks and affects the daily life. We must remember in this regard that depression is a clinical condition that can only be diagnosed by a health professional.
As a layman, we can define depression as a period of overwhelming sadness. Depression is characterized by a loss of interest in daily activities. These symptoms become so severe that they interfere with daily living and hence it is important to treat depression.
Why should we study depression? Why is there a need to be aware of its symptoms? Because of its prevalence. You would be surprised by the facts that NIMH shares. Around 6.7% of the total US population which comes to 16 million adults suffered from at least one major depressive episode in 2016. WHO confirms that 350 million people suffer from depression.
Women are more prone to suffer from depression than men. The severity of the problem can be understood by the fact that around 15% of the world’s adult population is estimated to suffer from depression at some point in their lives.
Depression is the leading cause of disability in people. Moreover, around 10-15% of women suffer from postpartum depression which can prove fatal to the health of the mother and baby.
These facts are scary enough to spread awareness of depression and learn its signs and symptoms so that we can take precautionary measures in time.
Let us now delve deeper into the subject and learn more about depression and its different forms.
This is the most major kind of depression which is only known as clinical depression. The key symptoms are depressed mood, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, changes in weight, inability to sleep at night, fatigue, feeling worthless and thoughts of suicide. If you have five or more of these symptoms continuing for two or more weeks, your doctor would diagnose it as major depression.
This is a mood disorder marked by periods of abnormally high moods called mania followed by episodes of major depression. People who suffer from bipolar disorder show symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, hopelessness, indecision, irritability, and lethargy. The risk of suicide is also high in this type of depression making it imperative to diagnose it at the earliest and seek medical help.
This is a severe depression that may last for two years or more. It was used to be referred to as dysthymia which is low-grade persistent depression and also chronic major depression. The general symptoms are changes in sleep pattern, change in appetite, low self-esteem, and lack of energy.
Women experience bouts of depression during pregnancy and after childbirth which is known as postpartum depression. Lethargy and sadness are the major symptoms of this condition. In some cases, the women may experience hallucination and delusion.
Popularly known as SAD, this type of depression is triggered by a disruption in the normal circadian rhythm of the body. This rhythm is influenced by the light entering through the eyes and the seasonal variation in the number of light triggers the depression. Usually, people residing in far north or south suffer from SAD.
Different from persistent or typical depression, in this type, people usually suffer from increased appetite, feeling of heaviness in limbs, oversensitive to criticism but perking up of the mood in face of a positive event. It is a common type of depression that requires medical intervention to treat it effectively.
Women experience this depression at the beginning of their period. Mood swings, change in appetite, anxiety, and fatigue are the symptoms of it.
We all feel sad at times. We also feel hopeless from time to time. Then how would we know whether we are suffering from general mood swings or depression? Well, depression comes with a set of signs and symptoms. These symptoms are varied and often may not be too pronounced. Moreover, not everybody would manifest all the signs. So, we need to seek medical help to determine whether we are suffering from depression.
The most common symptoms of depression are –
Apart from these, there are other signs of depression that you must be aware of. Let us quickly learn about these signs.
Feeling nothing – yes, this is a tell-tale sign of depression as you feel nothing – neutral, no feeling, nothing to motivate you to get out of bed or to go to the office. You feel cold and distant from people you love. You even refuse to seek support from people you love.
You spend more time online – it can be Facebook, Twitter or online shopping, but spending more time online than with real people is a definite sign of depression. Spending the majority of the time in the virtual world is emerging as a prime symptom of depression in the younger generation. Addiction to social media or the internet and feeling deprived of human companionship go hand in hand.
Flying off the handle too quickly – getting into a rage too quickly or feeling frustrated easily is a characteristic of people suffering from depression.
Drinking too much – an increase in the intake of alcohol in most cases is associated with depression as research shows that more than one-third of people suffering from depression also have an alcohol problem.
Not taking care of yourself – depressed people neglect their own well-being. Poor oral health is very common in depressed people. Simple things like not combing the hair, not dressing up properly are some signs you must be aware of.
It is difficult to pinpoint the causes of depression as often it may occur due to a combination of factors. The causes of depression can be broadly classified as
The other causes of depression are –
Life events – issues like death, work issues, divorce, financial problems, and medical conditions and stress can lead to depression.
There are a few personal factors that make some people more susceptible to depression. Genetics play a vital role here. If depression runs in the family, people would be at higher risk of getting it.
Some people, who worry a lot or have low self-esteem and are sensitive to criticism are prone to get depressed easily.
Serious medical conditions and dependence on drug and alcohol can lead to depression also.
Childhood trauma and even some prescription drugs cause depression.
We must understand that depression can prove to be serious if left unattended. So, you need to learn to deal with depression and seek medical intervention. There are certain things you can do to deal with depression. Here are a few of them.
Stay connected with people – we know that when under depression, people withdraw themselves and lead a secluded life but understand that isolating yourself is never going to help you. So, stay connected with people, even if a few one to get the support you need. Close friends can help you to release your stress and share the woes. Talking to people can help you to shift the focus from your own feelings.
Take care of your health – when depressed, people tend to neglect their health. Remind yourself that by doing it you would be doing more harm. So, go for your medical check-ups, take medicine on time and manage your stress level.
Get some sunshine – sunshine is good for the body and mood too. Going out and soaking in sunlight would make you feel better. Walking in a park and doing some physical exercise would prove helpful in dealing with depression.
Do something you love – Painting? Trekking? Singing? If you have a hobby, revive it. It would be therapeutic to do something you love and keep yourself engaged.
Depression is very common yet it is often ignored and left untreated. Major depression can lead to suicide or other medical conditions and hence require proper medical care. To diagnose depression, one has to seek help from a qualified medical practitioner.
Depression is diagnosed through –
Physical exam – depression is often linked to underlying health problems and hence doctors undertake physical examination to determine if anyone is suffering from it.
A doctor may also suggest blood tests to know whether the thyroid is working properly.
Psychiatric evaluation – mental health professionals inquire about symptoms, thoughts and behavior patterns. Often questionnaires are used to determine whether someone is suffering from depression.
DSM-5 – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5 specifies criteria to diagnose depression and mental health professionals abide by them to determine if anyone is suffering from depression.
Depression can be treated easily if you get medical care in time. It is a mental disease that can be cured with proper support, psychotherapy, and drugs.
This is the first option for treating mild depression. For moderate and severe cases, psychotherapy is used along with other methods. This involves psychological therapies or talking sessions that include different types of therapies like interpersonal therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
The psychotherapy sessions are usually conducted on a one-to-one basis to understand the problems and suggest remedial measures.
Medication is the second most popular treatment option for depression. Several antidepressants are prescribed by doctors to treat depression. These medications belong to a few broad classes namely selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAOIs, tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) and atypical antidepressants.
Each type of drug is for specific neurotransmitters and should only be taken when prescribed by a doctor. In this regard, we must mention that these drugs should be taken for the prescribed period and should not be discontinued without consulting the doctor. It is also important to remember that some of these drugs have negative side effects like they generate suicidal thoughts and so these must be reported to the doctor so that he can take appropriate steps.
There are other treatment methods for depression also. Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is one such therapy in which electrical current is passed through the brain to affect the neurotransmitters to release depression. ECT is recommended for people who don’t respond positively to medication or cannot take antidepressants due to health reasons.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS involves placing a treatment coil against the scalp that sends magnetic pulses to the nerve cells. The pulses stimulate the nerve cells to regulate mood.
Other than these, meditation and yoga can be used to relieve the symptoms of depression. Read more here about yoga and its wonderful health benefits. Mindfulness practice can also help you with depression.
Physical exercises and getting involved in sports act as psychotherapy to treat depression. When you work out you release endorphins which will make you feel good.
It is important to follow a healthy lifestyle and eat a balanced diet. I highly recommend a plant-based diet. You can check out my other blog and discover some healthy and delicious vegetarian recipes. A meal plan can also help you get on track – the custom meal plans app I developed might help you with that.
Music and dance are therapeutic and often are used along with medication to release stress along with treating depression.
There are a lot of myths surrounding depression. Most people don’t realize that it can be fatal or they refuse to seek medical help. However, we must understand that it is normal to get depressed and it can be cured too. So, if you find yourself suffering from any of the symptoms of depression and they persist for weeks, seek medical help immediately.