Depression: Meaning, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
At times, people go through depression as a result of what seems like a “good” reason like maybe someone close passed away or maybe they lost their job.
However, when it comes to clinical depression, it isn’t necessary that you have a good reason for how you feel.
Depression is real yet treatable at the same time. However, myths and stigma can be barriers to getting proper help.
This is a definite guide which will disclose what depression actually is and everything you need to know about depression. So, let’s start!
What is Depression?
It is a mood disorder that can be described as persistent feeling of sadness as well as loss of interest.
The other names for depression are clinical depression or major depressive disorder.
Moreover, it directly affects the way you think, feel and behave. It can also lead to various physical as well as emotional problems.
Eventually, it may start affecting your day-to-day life activities. Sometimes, you may even feel that life is not worth living. Depression is most common in older adults than in young ones.
Depression is Real
Depression is not just a bout of blues. It isn’t a weakness either.
It is not easy to simply snap out of it. You may even require long-term treatment to manage the disorder.
However, you don’t need to get discouraged! Most of the people start to feel better with the help of medication or psychotherapy and in some cases, both.
Some of the conditions can worsen if you have depression. These conditions mostly include:
- Cardiovascular diseases (such as, congenital heart disease or heart attack etc.)
It’s important for you realize that feeling low at times is absolutely normal. Disturbing and sad events happen in everyone’s life.
However, if you are feeling hopeless or down on a regular basis, you could be going through depression.
Types of Depression
Based on the level of severity, depression can be divided into categories.
Moreover, in some cases people experience milder and ongoing episodes. While, in other cases, people go through severe and temporary episodes.
Mainly, there are two types:
- Major depressive disorder (relatively severe form characterized by feelings of hopelessness, sadness as well as worthlessness)
- Persistent depressive disorder (relatively milder but chronic type of depression)
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There are various signs and symptoms that indicate the state of depression.
Moreover, some of the symptoms directly affect your mood. Others might have an effect on your body.
Men, women and children experience depression differently. Let’s have a closer look at all the symptoms!
It is important to note that the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks in order to make a diagnosis for depression.
Symptoms in Men
The symptoms men experience usually include:
- Mood disturbances (like irritability, anger, restlessness etc.)
- Emotional disturbances (like feeling of hopelessness and emptiness)
- Behavioral changes (such as, loss of interest, loss of pleasure, tiredness, suicidal thoughts as well as excess intake of drugs and alcohol)
- Reduced or no sexual desire
- Disturbance in cognition (such as, concentration problems, delayed responses etc.)
- Disturbed sleep patterns (such as insomnia or getting more sleep than usual)
- Physical symptoms (like constant headache, fatigue, body pains, problems in digestion)
Symptoms in Women
Most commonly, women experience the following symptoms:
- Mood changes (like irritability)
- Emotional disturbances (such as, feeling empty or sad, hopeless or anxious)
- Behavioral changes (like losing interest in activities, social withdrawal, suicidal thoughts)
- Disturbance in cognition (such as, inability to focus and reduced attention span)
- Irregular sleep patterns (such as too much sleep or no sleep at all)
- Physical symptoms (such as loss of appetite or eating too much, low levels of energy, changes in body weight, aches as well as feeling of exhaustion)
Symptoms in Children
Furthermore, the symptoms children may experience include:
- Disturbance in mood (such as anger, mood swings, irritability and excessive crying)
- Emotional disturbances (like feeling incompetent, losing confidence of doing things right, hopelessness, excessive crying or extreme sadness)
- Changes in behavior (like spending most of the time alone, avoiding siblings or friends, refusing to attend school, suicidal thoughts etc.)
- Disturbed cognition (inability to concentrate well, decline in academic performance and grades, losing interest in studies)
- Irregular sleeping patterns
- Physical symptoms (like low levels of energy, problems in digestion, rapid weight loss or gain, changes in appetite)
Moreover, the severity level of symptoms may vary from person to person.
Causes of Depression
There can be several causes ranging from biological to circumstantial.
Let’s dig in all the possible causes leading towards symptoms of the disorder!
The most common causes include:
Early Childhood Trauma
If you have had an experience of early childhood trauma, then you are more likely to have depression.
Such events usually affect your body’s reaction to stress and fear.
If you have a history of depression or any other mood disorder in your family, then your chances of having the disorder increases.
Changes in the effect or function of neurotransmitters and the way they interact with other neurocircuits in order to keep mood stable also plays a vital role in depression as well as its treatment.
If there is a disturbance in the balance of hormones, it may also act as a trigger.
Changes in the levels of hormone may result from pregnancy and as an after effect of delivery (postpartum).
Moreover, it may also stem from menopause, thyroid problems or various other conditions.
Structure of Brain
In case, the frontal lobe of your brain is comparatively less active, you are at a greater risk for depression.
However, scientists aren’t sure whether the changes in brain structure happen before or after the symptoms start to show.
Moreover, high intake or misuse of drugs or alcohol can also increase the chances of developing the disorder.
Certain medical conditions like chronic illnesses, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), insomnia or anxiety may increase your risk of developing depression.
Risk factors For Depression
There are various other risk factors that may contribute towards development of the disorder.
- Being self-critical
- Having low self-esteem
- Personal history of mental illness or illnesses
- Specific medications
- Very stressful circumstances/events (like losing your loved one, economic crisis, or a divorce)
However, in some cases, it gets difficult for the mental health experts to figure out the actual cause.
Treatment of Depression
It can get so taxing to live with depression. It’s important to seek help from a mental health professional as soon as the signs start showing.
The treatment plan generally includes medications as well as therapies.
Let’s find more about the treatment!
The medications that a mental health professional would generally prescribe includes:
- Antipsychotic medications
Talking to a therapist and seeking professional help can enable you to cope with the negative emotions and feelings.
Family or group therapy sessions can be beneficial as well.
Other therapies like meditation and acupuncture can also be really helpful. Your healthcare provide can guide you about these techniques.
Certain supplements can also be used for the treatment purpose. However, you should consult your healthcare provider first.
Daily exposure to white light can reduce the symptoms of depression and regulate your mood.
This type of therapy is most commonly used in seasonal affective disorder.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
Drinking alcohol or misusing drugs may help you feeling better for a while. But, these substances can make the symptoms worse in a long run.
Set the target of 30 minutes exercise almost daily.
Exercise not only helps you stay active but also produces hormones called endorphins which eventually improves your mood.
Furthermore, learning to say no in situations that make you feel uncomfortable can also save your emotions.
Other than that, taking good care of yourself, eating healthy and getting enough sleep can also reduce the symptoms.
How to Overcome Depression?
So, if you know that you have the symptoms of depression, you can use some of the coping strategies in order to overcome it.
All of these coping skills and strategies have a scientific support and are frequently recommended by psychiatrists and psychologists as a vital part of treatment.
Moreover, it doesn’t mean that these strategies are the alternate for the prescribed medication.
You should continue taking medications as advised by your healthcare provider. However, following these strategies along with medications can show remarkable results.
These coping strategies include:
- Find ways (either small or big) to be of service to others.
- Set achievable and realistic goals for yourself. This will boost your self-esteem and give you a sense of achievement.
- Make time and schedule for events or activities that are pleasant for you. This will regulate your mood and will make you feel better.
- Learn to stay in present. Distract your mind if it focuses more on past or future.
- Engage in daily exercise and eat right.
- Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Cutting off toxic people from your life can also save your energy and emotions.
- Seek support from friends and family.
- Get adequate amount of sleep and schedule your sleep regularly.
We have covered all the details about depression starting from its meaning to its treatment.
If you want to add something or have any queries, please leave your comments in the section below.
You can also share your experiences and the coping strategies you used to beat depression.
We would be pleased to have your response.