What is Depression?

Depression is a medical condition that manifests as a mood disorder. It is characterised by a feeling of deep sorrow, general disinterest in everyday life, and/or mood swings. Although it is fairly common, it does not often get the medical attention it is due. Depression can be caused by any major, life-altering event. It can also take different forms such as persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, psychotic depression or clinical depression. The symptoms of this condition vary from one patient to another, and timely medical care is essential. Read more about the types, causes, triggers and treatment for depression in this article.

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date-icon Last Updated 31-Aug-2021 |
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Medically, depression is a mental illness described as a mood disorder that leaves a person feeling sad and lost often. It is comparatively different from regular mood swings that people experience in life.

To put it simply, imagine depression as a weekly weather forecast but for your moods. So, it is 100% cloudy with a chance of light showers on Monday and Tuesday. It looks grim on Wednesday, and there are 90% chances of rain from Thursday to Sunday. Now, imagine that you are stuck in this disturbing weather pattern, and there is no sight of relief any time soon.

People can get into depression due to major life-altering events. However, medical experts also consider a persistent feeling of grief to be a part of depression. Depression is an ongoing problem that includes several episodes, the symptoms of which can last up to two weeks. At times, it can also last for several weeks, months, and even years.

Mental illness like depression should not be disregarded as a mood swing. We’ve discussed this disorder in detail so that if you are suffering from depression, you can get the right medical guidance. Moreover, having an understanding of the same will allow you to help someone with depression overcome it.

What are the Types of Depression?

Depression can take several forms, such as:

  • Major Depression (Clinical Depression)

Someone suffering from major depression, also known as clinical depression, will be in a constant state of sadness. They might lose interest in activities that once were enjoyable. The treatment for such a type of depression usually involves medication and psychotherapy.

  • Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent depressive disorder is also commonly known as dysthymia. The symptoms of this type of depression last for at least two years. Someone suffering from persistent depressive disorder tends to undergo major depressive episodes while experiencing some mild symptoms.

  • Bipolar Disorder

Depression happens to be a common symptom of someone having bipolar disorder. Because bipolar disorder and depression, in general, have about half of the same symptoms, it becomes difficult to distinguish the two.

  • Psychotic Depression

People usually suffer from psychosis that includes depressive episodes. In psychosis, one can experience delusions wherein there’s a detachment from reality. In some cases, it can involve hallucinations, which is sensing things that do not exist.

  • Postpartum Depression

Women, after childbirth, tend to experience something that is commonly known as baby blues. It happens because the woman’s body is readjusting hormone levels after delivery, which leads to mood swings. However, postpartum or postnatal depression is more severe. It can last from a few months or even years.

  • Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern

Major depressive disorder with the seasonal pattern was previously known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which causes depression due to reduction in daylight during the fall and winter season. People who live in countries with long and severe winters tend to be affected by SAD more than others.

Symptoms of Depression

Some common signs of depression are as follows:

  • Depressed mood

  • Little to no interest in activities once enjoyed

  • Loss of sexual desire

  • Change in appetite

  • Unintentional weight gain or loss

  • Sleeping a lot or having sleepless nights

  • Agitation and restlessness

  • Mellowed movement and speech

  • Constant fatigue or low energy

  • Feeling unworthy or guilty

  • Foggy mind, difficulty in concentrating on simple tasks or making decisions

  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, attempting suicide

Additionally, we have categorised depression symptoms as follows:

Depression in Women

Women often suffer from depression and the disorder is twice as common in them as compared to men.

A few common signs of depression in women are as follows:

  • Irritation

  • Anxiety

  • Mood swings

  • Fatigue

  • Ruminating

Some types of depression that women commonly suffer from include:

  • Postpartum depression

  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Depression in Men

Men suffering from depression tend to drink excessive alcohol, display anger and engage in risky activities due to the disorder.

A few other signs of depression in men include:

  • Avoiding family situations

  • Working prolonged hours without breaks

  • Having difficulty keeping up with responsibilities

  • Abusive and controlling behaviour in relationships

Depression in Young Adults

(College Going Students)

College life can be stressful. One has to deal with changing lifestyles, cultures, and several experiences for the first time. Thus, many students face difficulty coping with the change and can develop depression, anxiety, or both.

Some common symptoms of college students suffering from depression are as follows:

  • Insomnia

  • Excessive sleeping

  • Difficulty concentrating on coursework

  • Decreased or increased appetite

  • Avoiding social events and activities

Depression in Teens

Teenagers undergo physical changes, and sometimes peer pressure can lead to depression.

Some common symptoms of the same include:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends

  • Difficulty concentrating on schoolwork

  • Constantly feeling guilty, helpless, or unworthy

  • Restlessness

Depression in Young Children

Pre-teens or children between the age of 3 and 17 years can suffer from depression too. Because of this concentrating on schoolwork and other activities can get challenging.

A few other depression symptoms in young children include:

  • Constant crying

  • Low energy

  • Clinginess

  • Defiant behaviour

  • Vocal outbursts

Since these children are young, it becomes difficult for them to express their emotions in words.

Causes of Depression

It has been very challenging for medical experts to understand primary causes of depression. Several life-altering events and triggers can lead to depression. Some factors that are most likely to play a vital role are as follows:

  • Genetics

  • Change is neurotransmitter levels in the brain

  • External factors

  • Psychological and social factors

  • Additional conditions like the bipolar disorder

So, is depression genetic?

It is believed that if your parents or sibling is suffering/has suffered from depression then you are 2-3 times likely to develop the same condition. However, most people experiencing depression do not have a family history of mental illness. While researchers acknowledge that depression can be inherited, there can be several triggers/influences that develop this condition in a person.

Is depression a disability?

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability across the globe. If someone cannot perform daily tasks due to depression or bipolar disorder, the condition is usually considered a disability.

Triggers and Risk Factors of Depression

Triggers are usually emotional, psychological, or physical events that can lead to depression. Some common triggers are as follows:

  • Life-altering events such as loss of a family member/friend, family conflicts, changes in relationships, etc.

  • Medical conditions such as obesity, heart issues, and diabetes.

Additionally, some people are at a high risk of suffering from depression. These include:

  • Undergoing changing life events, having work issues, changing relationship dynamics, financial crises, and medical concerns

  • Acute stress

  • Lack of successful coping mechanisms

  • Having a parent or close relative with depression

  • Taking prescription drugs such as corticosteroids, beta-blockers, and interferon

  • Having a head injury

  • Having a history of major depressive episodes

  • Suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPS), cardiovascular disease

How is Depression Diagnosed?

If you are experiencing the symptoms of depression, it is best to seek medical help from a doctor or mental health expert. Taking professional help will allow you to rule out other mental health-related disorders. Once depression is accurately diagnosed, the doctor can prescribe appropriate treatment.

At first, your doctor will start by asking questions related to the symptoms you are experiencing. They might also conduct an examination to check for physical causes and ask you to undergo blood tests to rule out other health conditions.

Someone suffering from depression will be asked to complete questionnaires that assess the severity of the condition. These include:

  1. The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale: It has 21 questions, and the score determines the severity of depression.

  2. The Beck Depression Inventory: Another questionnaire that allows your mental health doctor to measure the symptoms you are experiencing.

Is depression curable?

There is no upfront cure for depression. However, several effective treatments will help you recover from the condition. The earlier the treatment begins, the faster and successfully one can recover from depression. However, relapse is common in depression. To prevent relapse, the medicines for depression will continue for a while, even after recovery (as per the doctor’s advice).

Treatment for Depression

It is essential to note that depression is treatable. The treatment involves managing its symptoms. Some effective depression treatments prescribed by doctors worldwide are as follows:

 

1. Medication

 

Doctors can prescribe antidepressants to treat moderate to severe cases of depression. Classes of antidepressants used for treatment include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • Tricyclic antidepressants

  • Atypical antidepressants

  • Selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

One can take these antidepressants only with the advice of a professional. Some drugs can take a while to show results. Stopping the medication is not beneficial unless notified by the doctor. Some people can stop the medication upon recovery, but in most cases, it leads to relapses.

With antidepressant medication, one should be aware of its side effects as well. These include:

  • Nausea

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhoea

  • Low blood sugar

  • Weight loss

  • Rashes

  • Sexual dysfunction

Also, some additional risks of these medications are increased suicidal thoughts or actions in children, teenagers, and young adults (especially in the first few months of the treatment). Please notify your doctor immediately if you/they are experiencing any of these side effects or risks.

 

2. Psychotherapy

 

Psychotherapy involves talking to therapists, CBT, interpersonal psychotherapy, and problem-solving treatment. For many types of depression, this is the first-line treatment method as people tend to respond better to a combination of psychotherapy and medications.

CBT and interpersonal psychotherapy are two primary types of psychotherapy recommended for depression. CBT can be conducted in person or groups, over video and audio calls, as per the patient’s comfort. In interpersonal psychotherapy, the mental health expert aims at identifying the following things:

  • Emotional issues that are affecting relationship dynamics and communications

  • Issues that are affecting the mood of the patient

  • Other triggers that can lead to depressive episodes

The objective of this treatment method is not only to identify the triggers but also recommend ways to overcome the depressive episodes altogether.

 

3. Brain Stimulation Therapies

 

Another treatment method for depression is brain stimulation therapies. For instance, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation that sends magnetic pulses to the brain can help treat major depression. On the other hand, if depression is not responding to medications, doctors can recommend electroconvulsive therapy or ECT. This treatment is highly effective when treating psychosis.

Natural Remedies for Treating Depression

In addition to the medical treatments, there are a few natural and well-known ways of treating depression. These include:

 

4. Herbs and Plants

 

A few popular herbs and plants used for treating depression are as follows:

  • St. John’s Wort: Not suitable for people suffering from bipolar disorder.

  • Ginseng: It is used for improving mental clarity and reducing stress.

  • Chamomile: It is known to contain flavonoids that have antidepressant effects.

  • Lavender: It is known to reduce anxiety and insomnia.

However, it is best to consult a doctor before consuming any of these herbs and plants for treating depression, especially if you’re already on medications.

 

5. Supplements

 

The above herbs can also be taken as supplements to treat mild to moderate symptoms of depression. There are also a few non-herbal supplements that can help in depression treatment. These include:

  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)

  • 5-hydroxytryptophan

Again, it is best to consult a doctor before consuming any of these supplements when suffering from depression.

 

6. Diet

 

Consuming a lot of processed food or sugary items can lead to the development of several health conditions. Moreover, these types of food can affect the mental health of children and young adults. But there are a few food items that can help reduce the symptoms of depression. These include:

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Fish

  • Olive oil

You can look up different diets that help you maintain/lose weight to avoid obesity, diabetes, and other medical conditions that might lead to depression.

 

7. Exercise

 

Doing aerobic exercises are known to raise endorphin levels and stimulate the neurotransmitter norepinephrine that controls emotions. So, exercising regularly can help relieve mild depression symptoms.

How to Prevent Depression?

Depression is usually not preventable. Since it is difficult to determine the cause of the condition, it makes it even more challenging to prevent depression. However, if you have suffered from a few depressive episodes, you can look for ways to manage/prevent a future episode by adopting healthy lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Exercising regularly

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Following your depression treatment

  • Reducing stress

  • Building a strong relationship with others

Final Take on Depression

While depression is temporary, it is essential to understand that it can be very challenging to recover from it. It is not just another mood swing or phase in life that will pass. Depression requires immediate medical attention, especially at an early stage, so that the symptoms can be managed from becoming worse.

If you are worried about the medical bills for depression treatment, know that mental illnesses are covered in health insurance plans in India. So, don’t worry! Get the right help as soon as possible.

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