Depression is one of the highest prevalent mental disorders in the world today. Three hundred million people around the world suffer from depression according to the World Health Organization.
What Is Depression?
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel and think plus how you act. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and home.
Depression can be confusing to understand. The death of a loved one, loss of a job or the ending of a relationship are painful experiences for a person to endure. It is normal for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to such situations. Those experiencing loss often might describe themselves as being “depressed.”
However, being sad is not the same as having depression. The grieving process is natural and unique to each individual and shares some of the same features as depression. Both grief and depression may involve intense sadness and withdrawal from usual activities.
Depression and grief also differ in some crucial ways.
In major depression, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are decreased for more than two weeks and does not lift on its own.
In grief, self-esteem is usually maintained, however, major depression is often experienced with feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing.
The Symptoms of Depression
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and may include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Experiencing a loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- A change in appetite weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing)
- Slowed movements
- Slowed speech (observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
To be diagnosed with depression, these symptoms must last at least two weeks
Patterns in Behavior Can Help You or Your Loved One Find Help
Noticing patterns in people’s behavior can help identify certain red flags as the changes in an individual’s eating habits, and general attention is noticeable. The manners in which people speak to friends and family are also great signals that give away what is happening to a person internally.
By identifying a person’s mood and making an effort to understand the undertone in conversations, friends and family can identify when someone is in trouble.
Those who are prone to depression need observant people around them to read the sure signs of worsening depression and procure help if it is required.
Additional symptoms your or someone else may notice that say you are I trouble include, feeling sad and hopeless nearly every day, for most of the day, for two or more weeks. On top of this, they may notice that you are expressing thoughts about death, self-harm or have a history of attempting suicide.
They may also see you are having crying spells and are having problems remembering details of the events of your life. Persistent aches and pains such as headaches or digestive problems, irritation, restlessness or becoming easily annoyed can also be signs you are having issues with depression.
The Reason Humans Develop Depression
The reason for developing depression has yet to be narrowed down. However, many known factors tend to predispose individuals to depression. These factors include past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, personal conflicts or disputes with family members or friends, sadness and grief due to death and loss, or other personal problems.
These factors can become compounded by social isolation due to other mental illnesses or needing to leave a family or social group. Substance abuse is another critical factor, as nearly thirty percent of people who have substance abuse problems also have major or clinical depression.
Research has shown that Genetics disposition also has an influence and a family history of depression may increase the risk too. The etiology of depression, like most psychiatric disorders, is not straightforward. Depression itself is a complex disorder, and no one factor is solely responsible. Instead, it is a combination of factors.
Depression Is Curable
Depression is curable, and there are many forms of treatment. Working one’s way through depression may be harder than expected but with the right help and therapy, people can overcome it.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is by far the most common form of assistance due to its high efficacy and short duration. Other types of therapy such as group-based therapy; interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic therapy, behavioral couple therapy, etc. are all used to treat depression effectively.
For cases of depression with increased severity medication in the form of antidepressant drugs can be prescribed. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are the most popular.
Apart from therapeutic and drug-induced medication, there are other things people can do to help reduce the symptoms of depression. For many people, regular exercise helps create a positive feeling and improve mood. Getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis, eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol (a depressant) can also help reduce symptoms of depression.
Depression is a Real Illness, and Help is Available.
With proper diagnosis and treatment, the vast majority of people with depression will overcome it.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, a first step is to see your family physician or psychiatrist. Talk about your concerns and request a thorough evaluation. By doing so you can start addressing your mental health needs.
Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
HOD – Holistic Medicine & Psychology – Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon.
Director – The Mind & Wellness Clinic, New Delhi
Director – Ngo Swapn
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