Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC
What Is Depression?
Depression may be described as a mood disorder that affects the general outlook and mood of an individual. It is typically characterized by symptoms such as a sudden loss of general interest in most activities or a feeling of sadness or being down. Though it is the case that a lot of people may generally be sad or feel down for short periods of time, clinical depression is a lot more than just a feeling of sadness.
Depression is not a condition to be taken lightly as it is a serious condition. People who face depression are unable to get over their state of depression just like that. Depression if left untreated can lead to other certain issues like:
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Issues with employability
- Strained interpersonal relationships
Depression is a condition that is quite common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that about 8.1% of American adults above the age of 20 had experienced depression within any given period of 2 weeks between the years 2013 to 2016.
Most of the people who get treated for their depression eventually go on with living their lives happily and healthily. For quite a few, their depression may turn out to be challenge that may last a lifetime and will require long-term treatment measures.
Contact a medical professional or mental health specialist if you think you may be experiencing depression or any other mood disorders. Depression is a condition that can be exhibited by persons of any age and gender.
What Causes Depression?
Depression is not a condition that has exact known causes. While some persons may be more prone to having depressive episodes, other people are not. This makes it necessary to discuss all symptoms you may be experiencing with your therapist or doctor. That being said, there are several potential factors that may cause depression.
Depression may be a condition that is inherited. An individual has increased chances of experiencing depressive disorders at a point in their life if they have a close family member who experiences depression. The precise genes that are responsible for this have not been identified yet. Though there is the belief that several genes may play a role in the determination of whether a person is likely to experience depression.
There are some people experiencing depression who have shown changes around their brains that are noticeable. Despite the fact that not much is understood about this potential cause, those changes suggest that brain function could be a factor that influences depression. Some psychiatrists have studied the brain chemistry of people who have cases of depression.
Serotonin, norepinephine and dopamine which are all neurotransmitters within the brain are capable of affecting how an individual experiences pleasure and happiness and there is the possibility that it may be imbalanced in persons who are experiencing depression. Antidepressants counter this effect by restoring balance to the neurotransmitters, specifically serotonin. The reason these neurotransmitters get imbalanced, how they get imbalanced and the part they play in affecting depressive states is not still totally clear.
Changes in the production or functioning of hormones may cause the onslaught of depressive episodes. Any sort of changes in the hormonal balance such as childbirth, thyroid problems, menopause or some other disorders, may affect the likelihood of a person getting depressed.
In the case of postpartum depression, after they have given birth, some mothers may begin to develop certain symptoms. It is normal for most mothers to get emotional as a result of the changes in hormonal balance, but a condition like postpartum depression is a serious one.
Some persons have an increased likelihood of getting depressed and this may be as a result of their personality type. They might be persons who have serious tendencies to worry too much, persons who have a low self-esteem, persons that are very sensitive to criticism, especially when it is personal, people who are perfectionists or people who are usually negative and self-critical.
As the daylight hours begin to get shorter as the winter approaches, a lot of people may begin to develop certain feelings of tiredness, lethargy and a possible loss of interest in daily activities. This condition used to be referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder. More recently, it has come to be regarded as a major depressive disorder that occurs with a seasonal pattern.
It has been discovered that this condition may arise as a result of disruption in the normal pattern of the body’s circadian rhythm. Aside from this, a reduction in sunlight may cause the level of serotonin in the brain to drop, which may affect a person’s mood.
Your doctor or therapist may recommend medication or the use of a light box to ease the condition. Usually, the condition begins to go away gradually once the daylight hours get longer.
Traumatic events, very significant changes or life struggles are likely to lead to depression in a person. The death of a loved one, the loss of one’s job, financial difficulties or significant changes in a person’s life may have a huge toll on people.
Generally, stressful events are capable of overwhelming a person and may cause them to experience depressive episodes.
It is suspected that increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, affect the level of serotonin in the brain and may increase the likelihood of a person getting depressed.
The use of alcohol and drugs may increase the likelihood of depressive disorders. About 21% of persons that have issues with substance use may also experience depression.
There are even certain prescription drugs that have been noticed to have similar effect.
It is necessary to always inform your doctor if you are feeling any symptoms of depression when using any medication.
Symptoms Of Depression
The symptoms of depression may vary from person to person depending on the level of severity, however some standard symptoms to look out for exist. Depression is capable of affecting more than just the thoughts and feelings of a person. It can affect their behaviors, speech, and social interaction. These symptoms include:
- Difficulties concentrating
- Lack of energy
- Alcohol or drug use
- Physical pain
- Sleeping troubles
- Suicidal ideation
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, and is available 24/7.”
Some people may also exhibit symptoms of manic episodes and psychotic episodes. This may hint at the presence of other conditions that have depression as a symptom, a condition like bipolar depression.
Risk Factors Of Depression
There are a number of factors that increase a person’s chances of developing depression along the line at a point in their life. These factors include:
- Having low self esteem
- Having family members with depression
- Using certain medications
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Having certain other mental health conditions like bipolar disorder
- Facing adversities and hardships
- Residing in parts of the world where there are reduced daylight hours during winter
Diagnosis Of Depression
In order to diagnose someone with depression, a doctor will carry out a total evaluation and will ask for medical history. They may recommend seeing a psychiatrist for a more detailed evaluation. The doctor will ask more questions than tests since depression is not a condition that can be detected in blood tests. It is based on the symptoms you are experiencing and the answers you provide to the doctor’s question that will aid the doctor in making a diagnosis.
Treatment For Diagnosis
In treating your depression, the doctor may recommend medication or psychotherapy or a combination of both. Though it may take a while to properly identify what combination is most effective for you, seeking help is worth it and will allow you to live a productive life with depression. The treatment options will be specific to your case in order to treat your specific symptoms.
The following may be recommended for you by your healthcare provider:
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Antipsychotic medications
Reaching out to a therapist may help you in the process of learning skills required to cope better with the negative feelings often experienced in depressive states. There is also a lot you may gain from attending therapy sessions as a group or as a family.
Other options to cope with depression include:
You may be exposed to doses of white light to aid in the regulation of your mood and help improve the overall symptoms of depression you might be experiencing. This treatment is most beneficial to persons experiencing a major depressive disorder that occurs with a seasonal pattern.
There are options like meditation and acupuncture that can help in easing the symptoms of depressive episodes.
There are also lifestyle changes that may prove effective in easing the symptoms of depression:
- Exercise: Working out aids the secretion of endorphins which can help with improve a person’s mood.
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs
- Eating healthy
If you think you may have developed depression, try to take this online test to find out.