Definition of Depression
Every one of us feels sad at some point in our lives. Usually, those feelings of sadness go away after a short period of time. But if those feelings of hopelessness, despair, and grief persist for longer periods and just won’t go away, it might be Clinical Depression. Depression is a serious and common medical psychological condition that effects the way how you think, feel and act. It interferes with your abilities and makes it difficult for you to do your everyday tasks. Activities that you previously enjoyed does not remain as pleasurable anymore. However, no matter how dejected you feel or how bleak the world looks, you can get better and first step in this is to know what depression is.
Clinical Depression Symptoms
Following are the common symptoms of depression:
- Depressed Mood: Feeling sad, empty, helpless, tearful or hopeless, thinking that nothing will ever get better and life is going to doom whatever you do
- Irritable Mood: Frustration and feeling anger even at minor instances
- Loss of Interest: Inability to experience interest and joy in daily activities and also in those that were once enjoyed such as hobbies, sports, exercise, sex and/or social activities
- Changes in Appetite and Eating Habits: It can be manifested either as increase or decrease in weight and appetite. You may have to force yourself to eat or conversely you may have huge cravings of certain foods.
- Changes in Sleep Patterns: Either sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia
- Anxiety, Restlessness, and Agitation: As manifested by the increase of purposeless physical activity such as hand-wringing, inability to sit still, pacing back and forth or pulling objects
- Slowed Speech: Such as taking long pauses to answer, decrease in volume and amount of speech or slowed body movements
- Loss of Energy: Tiredness, fatigue, and lethargy, even small tasks such as washing dishes requires considerable effort and feeling tired after doing small tasks or taking longer time than usual to complete tasks
- Feelings of Worthlessness: self-loathing, self-blaming, guilt and ruminating over past mistakes
- Difficulty in Thinking: Difficulty in focusing, making decisions and remembering
- Thoughts about Death: Thoughts about suicide or attempt to commit suicide
- Unexplained Physical Symptoms: Such as a headache, back or stomach aches, pain around shoulders and other muscular pains
All of these symptoms are a normal part of a person’s life whenever he or she is going through a difficult phase but these symptoms must occur for at least two weeks for the diagnosis of depression. They can vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. It is important to remember that these feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and hopelessness are SYMPTOMS of depressions and they do not define the reality of your life. This is how almost everyone in the state of depression feels but you can take steps to overcome these feelings and you can once again enjoy life and elevate your mood. Depression is treatable but if left untreated, it can become a serious health hazard.
Types of Depression
- Major Depression
- Persistent Depressive Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Psychotic Depression
- Peripartum (Postpartum) Depression
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
- Situational Depression
- Atypical Depression
Manifestation of Depression according to Age and Gender
Symptoms of Depression often vary among men and women and also differ across ages.
Depression in Men
Depressed men are less likely to admit feelings of hopelessness and self-loathing. When men have been stricken with depression, they are more likely to report irritability, anger, loss of interest in work and hobbies, exhaustion and sleep problems. They are also more likely to engage in reckless behavior, aggression and substance abuse.
Depression in Women
The depression in women is manifested in the form of feelings of excessive guilt, oversleeping, overeating and weight gain. Among women, hormonal factors also play an important factor in the exacerbation of symptoms during menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy. In fact, one in seven women experiences depression after childbirth.
Depression in Teens
Major complaint during depressive episode of adolescents and children is not sadness. Children and teens manifest irritable mood, anger, and agitation. Drop in their grades might also be a signal of depression. They may also complain of stomachaches, headaches, or other physical pains. Children might not show expected weight gains during the depression.
Depression in Older Adults
The complaints of older adults are more about physical signs rather than the emotional symptoms. They may stop taking medications for their health and might also neglect their personal care. They report symptoms like memory problems, fatigue, and physical pains.
Causes and Risk Factors of Depression
The exact medical causes of depression are not known. It is believed that depression is caused by a combination of factors including brain chemistry, genetics, environmental factors, personality traits, lifestyle choices and coping skills. Major risk factors of depression are:
- Brain’s Physical Structure: People who are going through depressive episode appear to have changes in their brain. Although the significance of such changes is still not certain, however, it might eventually help in the diagnosis and treatment.
- Biochemistry: There are certain neurotransmitters in the brain which regulate functions like feeling happiness, joy, fear, sadness, etc. Imbalance of those neurotransmitters also contributes towards the appearance of Depressive episode.
- Hormones: Sometimes depression is triggered by the change in the hormones in the body. The quantity of hormones is changed in the body during and after pregnancy, menstrual cycles, during menopause and from thyroid problems among other conditions.
- Genetics: Depression is more common among those people whose family members have also been the victim of mood and anxiety disorders. Among twins, if one sibling has depression, other sibling has a 70% chance of having depression once in a lifetime.
- Environmental Factors: Being in an unsupportive environment, being exposed to violence, physical or emotional abuse, financial problems, traumatic experience, a death of a loved one, a difficult relationship, contracting a chronic life-threatening illness are some factors which make a person more likely to have depression.
- Personality Traits: People with a pessimistic view of life, having low self-esteem, dependent upon others, having low-stress threshold are more vulnerable to have depression.
- Medical Conditions: It is important to note that some medical conditions such as thyroid problem, vitamin deficiency or brain tumor etc. may also cause symptoms which are similar to depression. Therefore it is imperative to rule out that you are not experiencing these medical conditions before arriving at the diagnosis of depression.
- Side Effects of Medicines: Sometimes these symptoms are also the result of side effects of medicines for example pills used to induce sleep and high blood pressure medicines. If you think that depressive symptoms are due to medications, talk to your physician before stopping the use of prescribed medicines.
- Other Psychological Disorders: Presence or history of any other psychological disorder such as anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder increase the risk of a person developing depression.
Treatment of Clinical Depression
- Medicinal treatment – Antidepressants
- Cognitive behavior therapy – it is a type of therapy that is used to deal with negative thought patterns. It aims to replace the negative thoughts with a more realistic and rational thought.
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- Applied Behavior Analysis – ABA Best Resouces (2018)
- Anxiety Disorders
- REBT – Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
Clinical Depression InfoGraphics