What is Depression?
Depression is a state of feeling low or sad. People who have depression always experience a feeling of despair in response to adverse life events. These events might include disappointment, loss, stress, or a significant life change. Usually, the sense of sadness fades away once the person has dealt with the situation, but if the feeling persists for longer than a month or return on significant occasions, then you might have depression.
People with depression will find it difficult to think and concentrate and to make significant decisions. Depression can be short-term or long-term. The main sign of someone having depression is, they lose interest in the activities that bring joy or feeling of pleasure.
Depression is ubiquitous, and one in three people will experience a depressive episode at some point in their lives. Most of these depression cases are mild, but about 1 in 10 people will have moderate or severe depression.
Symptoms of depression
The symptoms of depression could vary from person to person, but some of the more common ones, like hopelessness, loss of desire for pleasure, and feelings of sorrow are present mostly in all the people who have depression.
Physical symptoms of depression
- Loss of energy despite being physically inactive
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive weight loss
- Sleep deprivation
- A feeling of exhaustion
- Loss of interest in sex
- A slowdown of activity and speech
Psychological symptoms of depression
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feeling of sadness
- Recurring unpleasant thoughts
- Loss of interest in pleasure in activities
- Feeling of misery
- Difficulty in concentrating and thinking
These symptoms serve as early warning signs for depression. A person experiencing at least five of these can have depression, which needs proper attention and treatment. If you feel that you are facing these problems daily, then it would be a good idea to consult a doctor.
Causes of depression
The actual reason why someone might experience depression is unknown, but various factors can contribute to the feeling of depression. Genetic factors also play a role in causing this condition, as genetic influences can increase the risk of depression by about 30%.
The other factors that might result in depression are:
Events like childhood adversity, mental, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, and grief are the causes of depression. Ongoing conflicts with someone can also affect the well-being of a person, as well as other stressful situations like unemployment, retirement, financial problems, childbirth, loss of someone, loneliness. These events might end up causing or worsening depressive illness in the people who lack proper social support.
A person’s character also plays a role in contributing to the problem of depression. Changes in the social environment and one’s nature can lead to alteration in depression levels. Depressed people have a negative view of the world and themselves. It’s hard for them to appreciate good things, and they have an overwhelming reaction to the bad stuff that happens. Some other indicators that show the onset of depression include; rapid mood changes, sleep disruption, withdrawal from social life, and loss of interest.
Another cause of depression might be medical treatments, as certain drugs can cause or increase depression. Certain medications like beta-blockers, antimigraine pills, contraceptives, hormonal agents, interferon therapy, isotretinoin, etc. are linked to increased depression in the user. This condition can also be a result of withdrawal from certain substances or drugs, such as opioids, alcohol, pain killers, sedatives like benzodiazepines, stimulants like amphetamines and cocaine, inhalants, and hallucinogens.
Various psychiatric syndromes have depression as one of the symptoms that a person might experience. These conditions include major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, dysthymia, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.
One should not overlook the conditions, as doing so might result in severe depression, which will require medical attention.
How to deal with depression?
There are several ways to deal with depression. These include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), antidepressant medications, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in severe cases. A person can make use of several non-medical coping strategies along with the medical ones to speed up the recovery process and better manage their depression.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is an effective treatment for depression. A doctor might recommend this therapy alone or in conjunction with other medications. People going through CBT learns:
- To control negative thoughts that result in a feeling of worthlessness and loss of interest.
- To fight the behavior related to poor concentration and suicidal thoughts.
- To resist the emotions of hopelessness and sadness.
- To control the loss of energy that occurs without any physical activity.
Patients also learn problem-solving techniques, which can put their mind at ease and help with the depression. This therapy is effective for about 80% of the people who have mild, moderate, or severe depression.
A physician might prescribe CBT if:
- It is dangerous for the patient to take medicine due to a contraindication.
- The patient has shown a positive response to CBT previously.
- The person prefers CBT.
- There is a professional available who has the proper expertise required for the CBT.
Doctors often prescribe medicines as the first line of treatment for depression. It is always better to handle a case of severe depression with medicine before recommending any alternate therapy, but for other moderate conditions, medication is not the preferred choice.
Each antidepressant works in different ways, so the person has to try more than one to find what works best for them. They should also be in close contact with their physician during the early stages of the treatment, as these drugs might result in some mild to severe side effects.
People taking or planning to take antidepressant medications should be aware of the following:
- Do not stop taking medicine without telling your doctor, as the feeling of depression might result after a short while.
- Take this medicine daily as your doctor has prescribed.
- The side effects of these drugs will subside as the body adjust to the medicine.
- If undesirable effects persist or start to become more severe, then contact your physician.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
This procedure involves applying a brief electric current to per-selected areas on the scalp. Psychiatrists and anesthetists administer these currents to produce a minor seizure in the brain. Before the treatment, the patient gets a dose of short-acting general anesthetic and muscle relaxant to prevent the person from having a physical seizure.
Despite the dangerous appearance, many argue that ECT is by-far the best way of treating severe depression, but it can also have side effects that can lead to memory loss.
Non-medical treatment for depression
People cannot just will themselves out of depression, but there are certain things they can do that might positively affect their mental health
- Participate in social activities
- Do something that makes you feel good
- Do physical activities, like exercising, or running
- Pay attention to maintaining a healthy diet
- Go out and experience sunlight for at least 15 minutes per day
- Try to see positive aspects of things and suppress the negative thinking
Doing these little things can result in visible improvement in the psychological condition of a person, which can help them fight the symptoms of depression. Mostly, the feeling of depression is temporary, and one can overcome it by doing these simple things.