What is Depression?
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed but is more than “feeling sad or being upset”. It can lead to a variety of emotional/behavioural and physical symptoms and may impact your ability to function at work and at home.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe, and common symptoms include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Sudden changes in sleep and/or appetite
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, hand wringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
What Causes Depression?
Depression does not have a single cause. It can be triggered by a life crisis, physical illness, or something else—but it can also occur spontaneously.
A number of factors can contribute to depression; here are just a few:
- Trauma – When people experience trauma at an early age, it can cause long-term changes in how their brains respond to fear and stress. These changes may lead to depression.
- Genetics – Mood disorders, such as depression, tend to run in families.
- Life circumstances – Marital status, relationship changes, financial standing, and where a person lives influence whether a person develops depression.
- Also, medical conditions (e.g., thyroid problems, a brain tumor, or vitamin deficiency) can mimic symptoms of depression so it is important to rule out general medical causes.
Symptoms must last at least two weeks and must represent a change in your previous level of functioning for a diagnosis of depression.
Depression is among the most treatable of mental health conditions. Between 80% and 90% percent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment.
Before a diagnosis or treatment, a health professional should conduct a thorough diagnostic evaluation, including an interview and a physical examination. In some cases, a blood test might be done to make sure the depression is not due to a medical condition like a thyroid problem or a vitamin deficiency (reversing the medical cause would alleviate the depression-like symptoms). The evaluation will identify specific symptoms and explore medical and family histories as well as cultural and environmental factors with the goal of arriving at a diagnosis and planning a course of action.
If diagnosed with depression, the key is to get a specific evaluation and treatment plan. These are a few treatment plans that one might undergo:
- Psychotherapy including cognitive behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy and interpersonal therapy.
- Medications including antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications.
- Self Help, Self care and Coping: Few things like taking care of your health, taking an adequate diet, getting adequate rest, and indulging in exercise, workout, yoga, etc can help and support your recovery. It can also help in managing mild to moderate symptoms.
Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year. And one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression can occur at any time, but on average, first appears during the late teens to mid-20s. Women are more likely than men to experience depression. Some studies show that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime. There is a high degree of heritability (approximately 40%) when first-degree relatives (parents/children/siblings) have depression.
The NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) can provide information on how to find various mental health professionals and resources in your area.
Remember that you are not alone. For more resources and to learn more about depression, Please Click Here.