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What is depression?
Depression is a common health condition that affects the day to day activities of a person. A patient affected by depression may start developing a feeling that he has no energy to do the things that he is supposed to do in his daily life. Some others may feel irritated without any apparent reason. The symptoms of depression vary from person to person. A person who feels dull and down for more than two weeks require special attention as it can be a symptom of depression.
The condition is common. The chance that you will ever get a severe depression is even 1 in 20 and in general women are more likely to suffer from it than men. Children and the elderly can also suffer from it. A depression can be short, but can also last for months or even years. If you’ve been depressed for at least two years, it’s called chronic depression.
To understand the condition, you need to know what causes depression. Through a solid grasp of the causes of depression one can work more effectively toward finding a cure. Of course, treating depression is not an easy thing to do but you will have a greater understanding of why this is when you take a look at the causes of depression.
Depression causes: what causes depression?
So, what causes depression? Is depression caused by physical factors like neurotransmitters in the brain or by mental factors like chronic negative thought patterns? The unsatisfying answer is that it depends on the individual.
For some individuals this condition primarily stems from chemical imbalances in the brain and for others the main cause is negative thinking. Other factors such as vitamin deficiencies or excessive exercise could also be the culprit. In short, the causes of depression vary from one individual to the next.
Certain personal characteristics can make someone extra vulnerable to this condition. Some people do not succeed in solving problems or coping with unpleasant events. Or they don’t dare ask anyone for support, so they stay alone with their problem. Other personal characteristics that can make you vulnerable are:
- lack of self-confidence
- overdoing things
- fear of failure
- demanding a lot of yourself
- feeling not worthy enough
An important physical cause is heredity. Do depressions occur in your family? Then you’re more likely to become depressed.
Also, certain substances in your body can sometimes cause depressive feelings. That goes for hormones, medicines, alcohol and drugs.
Furthermore, certain physical illnesses are often accompanied by depressive feelings. Examples include disorders of the thyroid and adrenal cortex, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
What you’re going through in your life
Good or bad experiences or events that suddenly change your life can make you feel depressed. Examples are the loss of your partner, losing your job or moving to another city. Also, extreme shocking events such as a robbery or an accident can make you feel depressed.
You can also get depressed by events that happened a long time ago. For example, if you were abused or sexually abused as a child. Or if one of your parents died early.
It is essential to realize that the problem, wherever it stems from, will affect both spheres so to heal depression you need to consider therapeutic approaches that will address both areas.
It is not yet known exactly how this condition develops. It is assumed that biological processes, psychological factors, the personal situation and special events in life have their part in the development of the process. Here are some examples of what can cause depression and influence its course:
- a hereditary increased risk: it is shown by the fact that the disease has already occurred more frequently in family members.
- stressful experiences: for example abuse or neglect, but also a separation or the death of a loved one
- chronic anxiety disorders in childhood and adolescence, combined with a lack of self-confidence and insecurity
- biochemical changes: It has been found that in depression the metabolism in the brain is altered and nerve stimuli are transmitted more slowly. Certain messenger substances and hormonal changes can also play a role.
- physical illnesses such as a stroke, heart attack, cancer or hypothyroidism
- burdensome living conditions: for example, persistent stress and excessive demands or loneliness.
- Lack of light: Some people react to the lack of daylight during the dark autumn and winter months with depression.
Types of depression: what are they?
Not all depressions are the same. They can vary from mild to severe. How much a person suffers from a depression depends on how the symptoms disrupt his or her daily functioning. There are several types of depression:
With a mild depression it is often still possible to continue most daily activities. But even then, it is necessary to take the complaints seriously. A lot can still be done in the field of prevention to prevent more serious complaints.
You can recognize a severe depression because many symptoms occur or because the symptoms quickly get worse. Severe depression has a major impact on daily life: in the long run, you don’t go anywhere, you can’t work, go shopping, take care of children and follow a normal day and night rhythm. The future, the past, the here and now: everything seems like a black hole. Some people think about death: dying seems less bad to them than living through depression.
Also called ‘unipolar depression’ or ‘common’ depression. A depressive disorder is when someone is down or depressed for a long period of time. A period in which depressive symptoms occur is called a depressive episode. Is it just one episode? Then it is called a single episode disorder. If the episodes repeat themselves, the depressive disorder is called recurrent.
The dysthmic disorder is ‘milder’ than a depressive disorder. There must have been a (mild) depressive mood for at least two years and, in addition, two or more of the depressive symptoms (with the exception of psychomotor anxiety or inhibition) must have been present. The symptoms are usually milder than in depression, but the dysthymic disorder is experienced as more severe. This is due to the long duration of the dysthymic disorder.
Better known as manic depression. In bipolar disorder, happy periods alternate with periods of extreme hopelessness. During the ‘good’ periods someone feels extremely energetic and cheerful. In bipolar disorder, a distinction is made between type I and type II. A type I bipolar disorder is said to have been diagnosed if a person has had at least one manic episode, alternating with one or more depressive episodes. Type II refers to having suffered at least one depressive episode and at least one mild manic episode. A mild manic episode is also called a hypo maniacal episode. In a hypomaniacal episode the symptoms are not so bad that the general functioning is disturbed. An (even) milder form of bipolar disorder is cyclothyme disorder.
This is the case when, in addition to depressive feelings, there are also delusions or hallucinations. Delusions often correspond to depression in terms of content.
This type of depression can occur in women who have just had a child. Postnatal depression is similar in symptoms to ‘normal’ depression, but only occurs within four months after childbirth. The most common symptoms are having depressive feelings and not being able to enjoy the baby.
People who suffer from depression only in autumn, winter and/or early spring often suffer from seasonal depression. Most commonly known is winter depression. Symptoms of winter depression are: feeling down and depressed, sleep a lot, fatigue, irritability, eating a lot increase in weight. A winter depression occurs when the symptoms return for at least two years in a row. A winter depression occurs more often in women than in men. The change in daylight disturbs the biological clock, which in many cases causes winter depression. The hormone melatonin probably plays a role. The winter blues is a milder variant of winter depression. There are complaints, but people who suffer from winter blues are not sick. The symptoms are similar to those of winter depression, but are less severe.
Is depression genetic?
Genetics may predispose an individual to depression slightly but it is hardly a deciding factor. In most cases, it is more likely to see the condition run in families because of behaviors and thought patterns that were passed down than it is that genetics are playing a large role. But even if genetics are a factor, this does not do much to affect depression treatment approaches. Successful treatment of depression is still possible.
Is depression learned?
The condition can be learned. Negative thinking and negative behaviours can be passed down through families, as mentioned earlier, or an individual can learn negative thinking and behaviours from other people or experiences.
As far as the negative thinking goes, it is not that these situations necessarily made the individual become depressed but that the individual interpreted these events in such a way that negative beliefs were formed and these beliefs endured.
The crucial piece of information here is that anything that was learned can also be unlearned.
Negative thinking can be changed to positive thinking and this seemingly simple act can work wonders to alleviate and even cure depression.
Sings of depression: what are the symptoms of depression?
Each individual will experience varying degrees and varying types of depression, meaning a variety of different signs and symptoms. But there are some general signs and symptoms of depression that can be listed to help in determining whether the person may have a clinical depression disorder.
Keep in mind that reviewing a list of signs and symptoms, should not take the place of consulting with a physician or psychotherapist who can adequately diagnose the disorder and prescribe an appropriate treatment.
Most doctors will first try to establish the difference between a case of sadness or “the blues” and clinical depression. It is suggested that you go visit a doctor if you have had regular symptoms of depression for two weeks or longer that are persistent throughout the day and have begun interfering with your daily schedule.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Feelings of hopelessness/helplessness: An overall feeling that things are not good in life and that the future doesn’t look good either. Also, the feeling that nothing can be done to change the outlook of life.
- Loss of interest: Activities that were once a daily part of life or the things a person looked forward to the most, have suddenly become uninteresting, or the person does not have the care to participate any longer.
- Disruption in sleep habits: This can range from excessive sleeping to patterns of insomnia or waking in the middle of the night. It may also include being fatigued all the time and just wanting to nap or lie around during the day.
- Appetite changes: Depression is often accompanied with a great deal of weight loss or weight gain as a person will either lose interest in eating or will use eating as a way to ease the pain of their feelings and the depression.
- Difficulty controlling emotions: This may range from irritation/frustration, excessive crying, or being easy to anger over simple problems or situations.
- Loss of energy: Depression can cause a sense of fatigue that makes it difficult for someone to perform even small tasks. A pattern of just wanting to sit around more often may become more noticeable.
- Difficulty concentrating: Someone experiencing depression may have trouble focusing on daily tasks that used to be accomplished. They may also have trouble focusing on a conversation at hand or may have difficulty interpreting directions or answering questions.
- Physical pains: Subsequent headaches, backaches, sore muscles or joints, and digestive problems can all accompany clinical depression.
If you know someone who is experiencing these symptoms of depression, or you are experiencing symptoms yourself, it is best to consult with a physician or a psychiatrist to find the best possible depression treatment.
Depression treatment: how to treat depression?
Getting good treatment is vital. If depression is not treated, it can last for an unlimited time period and worsen other diseases. Even individuals with severe symptoms can cure depression.
There are many ways to beat depression, including:
- Medication (depression tablets)
Medicines to treat depression: which anti depressants are there?
Numerous different anti depression drugs, known as antidepressants, are widely in use to treat depression. Antidepressants medicines belong to quite a lot of different groups. They influence the function of major neurotransmitters present in the brain, though the process of mechanism of action is not entirely understood.
Depression tablets are supportive for decreasing symptoms of depression in people with depression, predominantly when their depression is of severe nature. There are various types of antidepressants used to manage depression and other form of conditions having an element of depression for instance bipolar disorder. Antidepressants improve symptoms of depression by raising the availability of important neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals. It is assumed that these brain chemicals can facilitate improve emotions.
Important varieties of antidepressants include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These are a newer class of antidepressant. These medicine works by changing the level of neurotransmitter in the brain known as serotonin.
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): These are the first class of antidepressants that have came to market to offer treatment for depression. They mainly affect the levels of two major brain chemical messengers (i.e. neurotransmitters), serotonin and norepinephrine, in the brain. No doubt, these are quite effective in managing depression; they posses many side effects. For that reason, they have no longer remained the first line treatment medications for depression.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): This is another class of antidepressant. These medicines are most helpful in people with depression who fail to respond to other medical treatments. But many Substances in our foods such as cheese or wine, and certain other drugs can interact with them, so people taking MAOIs must stick to strict dietary restrictions.
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): These are the newer variety of antidepressants. They help to control symptoms of depression by escalating availability of the serotonin and norepinephrine brain chemicals.
- Bupropion and Mirtazapine used to treat depression patients are comparatively new in origin. Common side effects of these medicines include anxiety, insomnia, sedation, restlessness and weight gain.
A large number of anti depression drugs are now available in the market for a doctor to treat patients of depression. Most of the medicines that are now available in modern medicine are found to be effective in treating depression. The effectiveness of these medicines in treating the problem is totally dependent upon the ability of the doctor to choose the right medicine for the patient. The patient should disclose all the symptoms that he experiences to the doctor to help him to find the one that really works for the patient. Normally, a patient who is given an antidepressant medicine would start experiencing the positive symptoms within three to six weeks. To get the maximum out of the medication, the patient should be ready to cooperate with the doctor by consuming the medicine as prescribed by the doctor.
These medicines also treat depression and are grouped into ‘minor’ and ‘major’ tranquillizers.
Minor tranquillizers such as benzodiazepines are not used in managing depression as they can cause addiction.
Major tranquillizers are utilized to treat melancholic or psychotic type of depression and they provide good symptomatic control of psychotic symptoms.
These medications hold immense significance in bipolar disorder. They are used to treat mania and it makes them ‘anti-manic’, and at the same time, their capacity to decrease the harshness and occurrence of mood swings formulates them ‘mood stabilizers’.
There are a broad variety of psychological treatments for depression. The most important ones are as follow:
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
- Mindfulness Meditation
Many people wonder about how to cure depression. Do not worry as the condition is treatable. It can be treated effectively by using antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. A combination of these two methods can also be tried in patients suffering from depression. Psychotherapy is found to be more effective on patients suffering from mild to moderate depression. Doctors still prefer medication to treat patients suffering from severe forms. Electroconvulsive therapy is the most commonly used treatment mode for treating depression with psychotic symptoms.
Help with depression: what can friends or relatives do?
In case of mental problems or illnesses, many people first turn to their partners, relatives or friends. They are often the first to notice the depressive symptoms and changes. Their comfort and support are especially important for people with depression. In cases of severe depression, partners and relatives also need support.
You might wonder about the question: “how to help someone with depression?”. Relatives and friends should first inform themselves about the clinical picture of depression. In this way they get to know the situation of the depressed person better and understand his or her behaviour. In addition to medical or psychological support, self-help groups can be a possibility.
Motivation also plays an important role in recovery from depression. Relatives can support the affected person in seeking professional help, taking his or her medication regularly and keeping appointments with the treating doctor or therapist.
Active help and support can become especially important when there are signs that someone might take their own life. It is extremely important to take such signs seriously and to talk about them with others. If this is not possible in an acute situation, there are services such as the social psychiatric service, crisis centres or telephone counselling service where help can be obtained.