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What Is Depression, Exactly?

Jun 22

Major depressive disorder, sometimes known as depression, is a common and serious medical illness that has an adverse effect on your feelings, thoughts, and actions. But it is treatable. Melancholy and/or a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities are characteristics of depression. It might lead to a variety of mental and physical problems, as well as a decline in your ability to function at home and at work.

Moderate to severe depression symptoms include the following:

  • A depressed or sad attitude
  • Loss of happiness or interest in once-appreciated activities
  • Changes in appetite can result in weight loss or gain that is not connected to dieting
  • Having trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much
  • A reduction in energy or an increase in fatigue
  • Slower movements or speech, as well as increased involuntary movement (such as pacing, trouble sitting still, or hand-wringing)
  • Feelings of guilt or inadequacy
  • You have trouble concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Your symptoms must last for at least two weeks and demonstrate a shift from your previous level of functioning in order to be diagnosed as depressive.

It's important to rule out any general medical causes since several medical conditions, such as thyroid problems, brain tumors, or vitamin deficiencies, may mirror the symptoms of depression.

Around one in every fifteen people experience depression in any given year (6.7 percent). 16.6 percent of people, or one in every six, will experience depression at some time in their life. Although depression may affect anybody at any time, it seems to happen most often between the ages of late teens and mid-twenties. Women are more likely than men to experience depression. One-third of women will have a severe depressive episode at some time in their life, according to some studies. There is a high degree of heredity for depression among first-degree relatives (parents, children, and siblings) (about 40 percent ).


Depression Is Not The Same As Sadness, Grief, Or Bereavement

The loss of a loved one, the end of a profession, or the dissolution of a relationship may all make sorrow worse for a person. In response to such circumstances, it's normal to feel depressed or sad. People who have lost something often label themselves as "depressed."

Contrarily, being depressed is not the same as being sad. The process of grieving is common and unique, and it has certain traits with depression. Extreme sadness and a withdrawal from daily activities may both be symptoms of depression and grief. They also differ in a number of notable ways:

  • When someone is mourning, negative feelings often come in waves and are mixed with happy memories of the deceased. For the bulk of the two weeks in severe depression, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are lowered.
  • People who are mourning typically maintain their sense of self-worth. In severe depression, emotions of worthlessness and self-hatred are common.
  • Thoughts of death may surface while contemplating or having dreams about "joining" a deceased loved one. In extreme depression, thoughts shift to ending one's life because one feels unworthy of living or unable to cope with the misery of despair.
  • Depression and grieving may coexist. Some people may experience grief as a result of a loved one's passing, the end of a job, being physically attacked, or another major disaster. When sadness and depression coexist, the grief is deeper and lasts longer than when sadness occurs alone.

In order for people to get the help, support, and treatment they need, it is essential to identify the distinction between grief and depression.

Depression may be triggered by a variety of factors, including:

  • Biochemistry: Variations in a few brain chemicals may contribute to depression symptoms.
  • Depression could be hereditary. If one identical twin experiences depression, there is a 70% chance that the other will as well.
  • Personality: People who have low self-esteem, experience stress rapidly, or are pessimistic in general are more likely to experience depression.
  • Some people may be more prone to depression if they are constantly exposed to violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty.



What Kinds Of Depression Treatments Are There?

One of the most treatable mental conditions is depression. Between 80% and 90% of depressed people benefit significantly from depression treatment. Almost all patients experience some symptom reduction.

A comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, which includes an interview and a physical examination, should be undertaken by a health specialist prior to a diagnosis or treatment. In certain cases, a blood test might be done to make sure that depression is not brought on by a medical condition like a thyroid issue or a vitamin deficiency (reversing the medical cause would alleviate the depression-like symptoms). The evaluation will look for particular symptoms, evaluate medical and family histories, as well as cultural and environmental factors, with the goal of making a diagnosis and deciding on a course of action.

Medication: Both a person's depression and its treatment may be influenced by the chemistry of their brain. Antidepressants may thus be used to help change the chemistry of the brain. These aren't tranquilizers, sedatives, or "uppers." They don't cause addiction. When used by those who are not depressed, antidepressant medications have minimal effect.

The initial week or two of therapy with antidepressants may provide some relief, but it may take two to three months before all of the benefits become apparent. A patient's psychiatrist may change the dose of the drug or add or substitute another antidepressant if the patient's mood does not improve after a few weeks. In certain circumstances, other psychotropic medications may be helpful. It's crucial to let your doctor know if a medication doesn't work or if you have side effects.

After their symptoms have improved, psychiatrists often encourage patients to continue taking their medicine for six months or longer. Longer-term maintenance treatment may be advised for certain high-risk individuals to lessen the likelihood of subsequent episodes.

Although psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as "talk therapy," is commonly used with antidepressants to treat moderate to severe depression, it is also used alone to treat mild depression. Depression may be successfully treated with CBT, according to research. CBT is a kind of therapy that emphasizes solving issues straight away. CBT teaches individuals how to recognize distorted or negative thinking and how to alter their beliefs and behaviors in order to respond to challenges in a more constructive manner.

Psychotherapy could just be for one individual, but it might also include several people. Counseling for families or couples, for instance, may help with problems that develop in these close relationships. Group therapy brings people with comparable diseases together in a secure, encouraging environment, and it could aid the participant in understanding how others handle comparable problems.

Depending on how severe the depression is, treatment might last a few weeks or much more. In many cases, significant improvement may be made in only ten to fifteen sessions.

People with severe major depression who have not responded to traditional treatments may benefit from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). A brief electrical stimulation of the brain is carried out while the patient is unconscious. Two to three times each week, for a total of six to twelve sessions, ECT is often administered. It is often overseen by a psychiatrist, an anesthesiologist, and a nurse or physician assistant. Years of research have resulted in substantial breakthroughs and acknowledgment of ECT's usefulness as a "mainstream" treatment rather than a "last resort." It has been used since the 1940s.