We hear about depression a lot in our lives, sometimes from our colleagues, from our classmates, from our parents, or from anyone. But the question is, what is this depression? What causes it? Can it be fought off? Is it harmful to our health? We are going to cover it all in here.
Depression is precisely a disorder of mood that makes people feel sad, moody and low which may last for a long time. Depression can cause people to lose sleep, appetite, disrupt their working schedule and affect how they feel, think and handle their daily activities. Sometimes there is no apparent reason for depression. It may cause serious harm to a person's mental and physical health.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to the development of depression. Certain life events such as losing a job, unemployment for a long time, isolation, loneliness, unrequited love, living in an abusive relationship, work stress, bad experiences, personal problems etc. are usually the causes of depression.
Other than that, depression is also developed when a person is fighting off a long term illness. The stress and worrying that comes with it and the chronic pain are huge risk factors that lead to depression.
Another major factor that contributes to depression is the victim's personality. People who worry a lot, have low-esteem, are very sensitive to criticism, disregard their worth and have a negative outlook towards life are more at the risk of depression.
Drug and alcohol addiction too leads to depression. It is often found that most of the substance abusers are stressed, depressed and anxious.
To sum it all up, there are multiple causes that alter our mood and lead to depression such as serious medical conditions, multiple life stressors, genetic vulnerability and substance abuse.
What are the various types of depression?
Major depression: For depression to be called major depression, the symptoms must last for at least two weeks. Major depression can be mild, moderate, severe, melancholic or psychotic. Person suffering from major depression experiences low mood and lack of pleasure in the activities they enjoyed immensely before that affects their work and social life deeply.
Persistent Depression: Persistent depressive disorder is the type of depression that lasts for a long period of time. The minimal length of time is set to be two years before the depression can be considered persistent depression.
Antenatal and Postnatal depression: This is the type of depression experienced by women during or after their pregnancy. This usually emerges from the stress of adjusting to the pregnancy or the newborn. This condition is called 'baby blues' where the birthing women face depression due to the hormonal changes. This depression can last for a long time and affect the victim's relationship with her partner as well as baby.
Psychotic depression: This class of depression makes the victim experience psychosis and can be very harmful to their well-being. The victims experience delusions and hallucinations. They may see or hear things that are not real or start believing in bad or evil or other false beliefs that are not shared by others. People suffering from psychotic depression are found be to very paranoid, as they always feel like they are being watched or followed or bad things are happening because of them.
Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder or bipolar depression or manic depression. In this class of depression, the victim goes through episodes of depression or periods of mania, experiencing extremely low moods that meet the criteria for major depression. In bipolar disorder, the victim's mood change very quickly. For example, they may feel seriously depressed at one moment and irritated or euphoric the next. Bipolar people have bad episodes of mania where they may experience psychosis, delusions and hallucinations. They may lose touch with reality, feel frustrated, have racing thoughts and feel manic. Stress and conflicts can set off these episodes of mania in bipolar people. This disorder may have links with the victim's family history.
SAD (Seasonal affective disorder): Some people feel depressed during particular seasons, usually when it is cold and the natural sunlight is scarce. It has a seasonal pattern and may repeat every year i.e. the victim may face mood disturbances that last for a particular season. The most common case of SAD is the depression that starts and ends with the winter season. Lack of energy, gain in weight, increase in sleep, social withdrawal, carbohydrate cravings are the usual symptoms observed in the case of SADs.
Melancholia: It is a wave of depression in which the person may feel lazy, reluctant and slow to move and lose pleasure in almost everything. The physical symptoms of depression are strongly present in the case of melancholia.
Cyclothymic disorder: Cyclothymic disorder is a moderate degree of Bipolar disorder. The victim experiences chronic fluctuating episodes of depression and mania but as the symptoms are irregular, last over shorter periods of time and are less severe, it is not classified among Bipolar disorder.
Dysthymic disorder: Dysthymic disorder is an altered case of major depression where the symptoms last for a longer period of time but are not as severe as major depression. For the depression to be diagnosed as Dysthymic, it has to last for over two years.
What are some usual signs and symptoms of depression?
Behavior: The person suffering from depression may not wish to go out anymore. They start to like solitude and withdraw from close friends and family. The victim stops enjoying activities they used to before. Lack of concentration is another major symptom of depression.
Emotions: A person suffering from depression starts to feel unhappy, miserable, frustrated, indecisive and disappointed. Depression also takes a huge toll on self-esteem, making its victim less confident.
Physical symptoms: Depressed people usually face problems like change in appetite and therefore significant loss or gain in body weight. Other than that a perpetual state of tiredness, trouble in sleeping, headaches and churning gut are common symptoms of depression too.
What are the treatments available for depression?
There is not a definite treatment for depression. For different types of depression, the treatments are different too. They are classified into psychological and medical treatments.
It deals with helping the depressed with their coping skills and change their thought patterns. Here are some most effective psychological treatments.
CBT (Cognitive behavior therapy): This therapy works on people of any age, be it children, adolescents, adults and older people. In CBT, the victim's thoughts and behavior is recognized. The therapist starts by identifying the victim's thoughts and behavior patterns that contribute to making him/her more depressed or are jeopardizing their recovery from depression. After that, they help the victim to shift their focus from negative or unhelpful thought patterns to a more realistic and positive approach.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT): It is known that problems in close relationships may trigger depression and make the case worse. This therapy deals with helping the patient to cope with their grief, focus on improving their relations and recognize patterns that makes the victim more vulnerable to depression.
Behavior therapy: This therapy focuses on reversing the patterns that contribute to depression such as avoidance, inactivity and withdrawal. Other major focus of this therapy is to encourage rewarding, pleasant and satisfying activities.
MBCT or Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: This therapy helps to stop your mind from thinking about future or past and focus on the present. It teaches you to experience moments whether they are pleasant or unpleasant without wanting to change them. This therapy is very helpful in stopping the depression from returning as the victim is taught to notice feelings of sadness early on so they can prepare themselves and deal with its signs more effectively.
When depression is severe or psychological treatments aren't possible or other methods aren't successful, the victim is prescribed antidepressant medication. The medication may include combination of mood stabilizers, antipsychotic drugs and antidepressants. This treatment is chosen as a last option when the form of depression is more severe (including bipolar disorder and psychosis).