Depression, formally known as clinical depression, is a mental health disorder. It is treatable by a medical professional and can be resolved . It is characterized by a stubborn feeling of sadness and loss of interest in all activities & events occurring in life. It affects your life substantially, making it very important for you to seek help if you feel you are depressed. Even waking up and getting through the day could be overwhelming. It can be harmful to the extent that it might give you dangerous suicidal thoughts. Thus, it is very important for you to know about this condition at length, including what causes it, how to identify it and battling it out.
What is Depression
Feeling low or sad from time to time is a normal, unavoidable part of life. But when hopelessness and despair does not seem to leave, you may have depression. It is a persistent mood disorder which lasts from six to eight months on an average. Depression comes in different types like mild, moderate, recurrent mild known as dysthymia, major, atypical and seasonal affective disorder. Depression tends to change how you feel, think and function in your life. It will interfere with every aspect of your health, including ability to work, eat, sleep, study and simply living your life. If left untreated, depression could evolve into a serious health condition.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression is different for every person. But there are certain signs which are common in most people suffering from this condition. Now, each of these symptoms could be a part of life’s normal lows. However, the more of these symptoms that you have, and the longer they last, it could point towards depression. These include:
- Feeling helpless: A bleak outlook towards life is common during depression. You will tend to think that nothing will ever get better and you cannot do anything about it.
- Loss of interest: Former hobbies and social activities which would excite you before has no value to you now. You have lost the ability to enjoy or take interest in any life activity.
- Sleep changes: Your entire sleep cycle will undergo a drastic change. You will develop insomnia or oversleep (hypersomnia), or even wake up in the wee hours of the morning.
- Irritability: Feeling agitated, restless and violent is uncommon during depression. The tolerance levels become low and the person tends to develop a short temper.
- Changes in weight: Your depression may be coupled with a significant loss or gain in weight. It implies a change of more than 5% in the body weight in the same month unintentionally, I.e., without any dieting etc. Also, you may experience an appetite loss.
- Loss of energy: During depression, one feels fatigue, sluggish, and physically drained at all times. Your whole body tends to feel heavy and you might get exhausted too soon.
- Reckless acts: If you have depression, you can take to reckless behavior like substance abuse, dangerous sports, compulsive gambling and reckless driving.
- Unexplained pains: There will be an increase in the incidence of headaches, back pains, stomach pains and aching muscles.
- Self-loathing: Strong feelings of worthlessness and guilt take over. In severe cases, this could lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts.
- Concentration issues: If you are depressed, you are more likely to have trouble making decisions, focusing or remember things.
- Delayed psychomotor skills: You will have slowed-down movements and speech.
Causes of Depression
The exact causes of depression are not fully identified. It cannot be pinpointed to a single cause or reason. It is most likely to occur due to a complex combination of factors. Most of these factors are however out of your control. These include:
- Genetics – having first degree family members with depression
- Biological or neurological changes in the brain i.e. altering neurotransmitter levels
- Environmental changes like leaving a close-knit, loved family at home to live alone
- Psychological and social changes like undergoing a major trauma or death of a loved one or divorce
- Presence of other health problems like cancer, diabetes or even Parkinson’s
- Life events like work issues, stress, financial problems, strained relationships with loved ones etc.
- Personality traits like worrying too much, failing at coping strategies, childhood traumas etc.
- Certain prescription drugs like corticosteroids, beta blockers, etc
- Abuse of recreational drugs
- A previous episode of major depression
- A past head injury
- Chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases etc.
- Living in isolation
Treatment for Depression
Depression is a treatable medical condition. There are three major components to treating depression – support from friends and family, psychotherapy techniques and treatment with drugs. In greater detail:
- Psychotherapy: This treatment is also known as talking therapy and could help a great deal in curing depression. It includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), problem-solving treatment and interpersonal therapies. It is often the first option of treatment, especially in case of mild depression. In severe cases; this therapy is used in complement to other treatments. CBT may be carried out in individual sessions with the therapist – one-on-one or in groups, or even over the telephone. Interpersonal therapies help the patients to identify and realize their emotional problems.
- Antidepressants: These medications are available on prescription from a doctor. These drugs are used to treat moderate to severe depression. These are not recommended for children. There are different classes of antidepressants and each of them applies to a different neurotransmitter. These drugs should be taken as prescribed by the doctor, event after improvement, to prevent relapse. The classes are:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Atypical antidepressants
- Selective Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI)
- Exercise & therapies: Aerobic exercises help to treat mild depression as it increases the endorphin levels. It also stimulates the norepinephrine neurotransmitter which relates to the working of your mood. There are certain brain stimulation therapies like electroconvulsive therapy which are particularly effective for psychotic depression.
When you are under depression, you could feel like there is no end to the misery. But there are many things which you could do to stay positive and lift your mood. The key is to start with baby steps and slowly build it up from there. Feeling better could take time but it is surely attainable by making the correct choices for you. These include:
- Reach out to others: Isolation makes depression worse. So, you need to reach out to your friends and family as much as possible. The simple act of talking to a person could be a huge help. All they need to be is a good listener and listen to you speak your heart out without judging you.
- Eat well: You should follow a healthy diet to feel better. Follow a diet which is less in trans-fat, caffeine, alcohol, sugar and refined carbs. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids help to enhance and elevate the mood.
- Get active: When you are depressed, even getting out of the bed could seem to a big task. But you need to get moving, exercise regularly, or put on some music and dance around, to battle the depression.
- Reduce stress: You should try to relax and fight stress by indulging in activities like medication or yoga.
- Stick to your treatment: One of the most important things to overcome depression is to take your medicines as prescribed by the doctor without fail. Do not skip your therapy sessions and speak to the doctor regarding all your troubles.
- Stay occupied: You need to look for ways to stay engaged to start feeling better. You could spend time amongst nature, get a pet, volunteer for a cause, pick up an old or new hobby and spend your days occupied.
Prevention of Depression
If you or a loved one is trying to overcome depression, you might have an idea that treatments do work. But experts think it cannot be prevented. You may not be able to protect yourself from this mental illness in a sure way, but you can stop things from getting worse or even prevent it from coming back.
- Indulge in ways which will reduce your stress. It will help you to improve your self-esteem.
- You need to love yourself and take good care of your body & mind. You should get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise regularly.
- You should get medically checked on a regular basis. Consult professionals whenever you feel things are getting serious.
- If you feel you are depressed, you should seek help and not shy away from others.
Depression is an issue that is becoming greater by the day and harms individuals irrespective of age, caste, sex, nationality. Thus, it is very important for one to identify depression early, seek the correct diagnosis and prompt treatment for it.