Depression is a term gaining popularity in the fast-paced world. Though many people observe symptoms of depression and even discuss it, they do not have entire knowledge about it. Many people often confuse depression with stress and anxiety, which is a mistake. What is depression, depression definition, the signs of depression, what causes depression, how to deal with depression, etc., need to be addressed in detail. Let us now dive straight into understanding all about depression.
Table of Contents
- Know What is Depression
- Signs of Depression
- Causes of Depression
- Diagnosis of Depression
- Types of Depression
- Depression and Other Ailments
- Treatment of Clinical Depression
Know What is Depression
Depression is basically a mood disorder or an intense feeling of sadness. It refers to persistent loss of interest in daily activities, including those which offer pleasure or happiness. The signs of depression include frequent mood fluctuation, the feelings become irregular, and a patient may not figure out or detangle thoughts. In some cases, anger and emotion of anguish may also become signs of depression. Depression is a prolonged feeling of sadness or feeling low that can substantially affect health and quality of life. It makes a person lose hope and affects productivity at a significant level. Underlying health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc., may also give rise to depression. Other names of depression are major depressive disorder and clinical depression.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared depression as the leading cause of disability in the world. The prestigious organization works towards making people learn how to deal with depression. While many people think young people cannot have depression, the disease can hit anyone, including children, adolescents, and adults. While it is normal sometimes to experience sadness or feel low, a continued sway of these feelings may cause depression. Hence, People should seek proper treatment or therapy for alleviating chronic depression or the signs of depression. Later in this article, we will also discuss how to deal with depression and its treatment.
Signs of Depression
Depression is much more grave than just feeling blue or sad. One may even feel sick and tired while going through depression. People can experience temporary or recurring episodes of depression. The symptoms or signs of depression depend upon various factors such as age, gender, surroundings, past events of life, etc. Chronic depression may even show a variety of symptoms and signs of depression. Let us understand the signs of depression in detail.
Common or General Signs of Depression Include
- Mood swings such as anger, irritability, aggressiveness, anxiousness, and restlessness.
- Emotional well-being gets affected; feelings of emptiness, sadness, hopelessness hits often.
- Behavior issues such as loss of interest, problems in finding pleasure in favorite activities, feeling weak and tired easily, thinking of committing suicide, drinking excessively, doing drugs, problem indulging in high-risk activities.
- Issues of sexual interest such as reduced sexual desire, lack of sexual performance.
- Disturbance in cognitive abilities, such as facing problems while concentrating, difficulty in completing tasks, delayed reaction time, and responses during conversations.
- Unruly sleep patterns, such as insomnia, excessive sleepiness, restless sleep, lack of sound sleep.
- Physical health concerns such as fatigue, frequent headaches, irregular digestion, etc.
Women May Experience Signs of Depression Related to Their:
- Mood swings such as irritation and anger.
- Emotional well-being issues such as feeling empty and sad, anxiety, or hopelessness.
- Behavior such as lack of interest in activities, withdrawal from social engagements, having suicidal thoughts.
- Cognitive inabilities such as problems in thinking, talking slowly.
- Disturbed sleeping patterns such as difficulty in sleeping through the night, waking up early, or sleeping too much.
- Physical well-being issues include decreased stamina and energy, increased fatigue, obesity, changes in appetite, stomach aches, body pain, headaches, increased cramps, etc.
Children May Experience The Following Signs of Depression
- Frequent fluctuating moods, such as irritation, anger, crying, and procrastinating.
- Emotional well-being issues such as feelings of incompetence or despair, crying, and intense sadness.
- Behavior issues such as getting into trouble at school or not taking interest in school activities, ignoring friends or siblings, thoughts of death, or suicide.
- Brain function hampering such as difficulty concentrating, the decline in school performance, depleting grades.
- Problematic sleeping patterns such as difficulty in sleeping or sleeping too much.
- Physical strength issues such as loss of energy, stomach aches, digestive problems, acidity, frequent changes in appetite, sudden weight loss or gain, etc.
Causes of Depression
The real causes of clinical depression are still unknown. A variety of factors can become responsible for giving rise to depression. Below given are some prominent causes of depression-
- Biological differences– Some people who deal with depression may have physical variation in their brains of differential neurological details than normal. The significance of these changes is however still uncertain, but it may eventually help to discover the possible causes of clinical depression.
- Brain chemistry– Neurotransmitters are natural chemicals present in the human brain which likely play a major role in depression. Recent research who know how to deal with depression indicates that changes in the functions and impacts of these neurotransmitters and how their interaction with neurocircuits which are mainly involved in maintaining mood stability, may be a significant cause of depression and its related concerns.
- Hormones– The balance of hormones may get disturbed and lead to causing or triggering clinical depression. Hormonal changes can be seen during pregnancy and stay even after a few weeks or months of delivery (postpartum). These hormonal changes may give rise to postpartum depression. Menopause, thyroid, irregular periods, etc., may also become reasons for clinical depression.
- Inherited traits or genetic defects– Depression is much more common in people who have blood relatives who also have this condition. Researchers are trying to reveal the genes that are possibly involved in causing clinical depression.
- Family history– A person is at a higher risk for developing clinical depression if he/she has a family history of depression or any other similar mood disorder.
- Early childhood trauma– Some events like accidents, tragedic past events affect the way the body reacts to stressful situations and fear. This may not be chronic clinical depression but may revive it for a short period in some people.
- Medical conditions– Certain underlying medical conditions may put a person at a higher risk of clinical depression, such as insomnia, chronic illness, chronic pain, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Drug use– A history of excessive drug or alcohol use can affect mental well-being and may give rise to clinical depression.
Risk Factors of Clinical Depression-
About 21 percent of people who have substance abuse issues may also experience clinical depression. Clinical depression takes a terrible toll on a person’s life, including the whole family. It can make emotions and behavior uncontrollable, which may encounter a person with several mental and physical issues. Depression can begin during the teenage, the 20s, or even during old age. Usually, women respond better than men while going through treatment of depression. However, the risk or the rate of being prone to depression is the same in both men and women. Factors that seem to amplify the risk of developing or triggering clinical depression include:
- Specific personality traits, like low self-esteem and being too dependent, self-critical, or pessimistic
- Traumatic or tragic events, like physical or sexual abuse, the death or loss of someone close, a complicated relationship, or financial issues.
- Blood relatives with a history of bipolar disorder, depression, alcoholism, suicide, or other mental illnesses.
- History of having mental health disorders, such as anxiety, chronic stress, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.
- Alcohol abuse or recreational drug abuse
- Prolonged chronic illness, like cancer, stroke, heart disease, etc
- Certain medications, such as any regular high blood pressure medications or taking sleeping pills.
In most cases, healthcare providers are unable to determine the cause of depression. It may be a medical condition or some other element tied to health or daily life.
Diagnosis of Depression
No single test can diagnose clinical depression. The doctor or healthcare provider can advise a diagnosis based on the symptoms and signs of depression to reach a psychological evaluation. In most cases, doctors introspect or ask a series of questions about the patient’s
- Sleeping pattern
- Regular activity
- Thoughts and ideas
This is so because depression can directly correlate with other health problems; the doctor may also perform a physical examination and involve blood work. Sometimes deficiency of essential nutrients like vitamin D or having underlying health concerns like thyroid can trigger symptoms of depression. It is absolutely not wise to ignore the signs of depression. If patients do not experience gradual mood upliftment or worsen, it is necessary to seek medical help as soon as possible. Clinical depression is a serious mental health illness that may give rise to other health complications.
Examples of clinical depression complication that need to get addressed include:
- Excess weight gain or obesity may lead to diabetes and heart disease.
- Physical illness and pain.
- Drug misuse and alcohol addiction.
- Anxiety, social phobia, or panic disorder.
- Family conflicts, school or work-related, and relationship difficulties.
- Social anxiety or isolation.
- Suicidal thoughts, feeling, or attempts.
- Self-mutilation and self-harm like cutting.
- Premature death out of medical conditions.
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Types of Depression
Experts break depression into two different categories depending on the severity of signs of depression. Some people experience temporary or mild episodes of depression, while others may experience severe and recurrent depressive episodes. There are two broad categories of clinical depression: Major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive disorder is the most severe or intense form of depression. It is characterized by recurrent and persistent feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and hopelessness that do not go away easily. In order to be diagnosed with clinical depression and identify the disease, a person must observe any of the 5 below given signs of depression for over a 2-week period:
- Feeling depressed for most of the day.
- Loss of interest in daily and regular activities.
- Significant weight changes and sudden weight loss or gain.
- Sleeping excessively or not being able to sleep, experiencing insomnia.
- Problems in thinking and slow reaction time.
- Low energy or fatigue.
- Laziness and procrastination.
- Feelings worthless or experience unnecessary guilt.
- Indecisiveness or loss of concentration and focus.
- Repeated suicidal thoughts.
There are different categories of major depressive disorder, which are categorized as “specifiers” by the American Psychiatric Association.
- Atypical features
- Mixed features
- Anxious distress
- Postpartum onset, during pregnancy or right after giving birth.
- Melancholic features
- Seasonal patterns
- Psychotic depression or psychotic features
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) was also called dysthymia. It can be a mild or chronic form of depression. To get an appropriate diagnosis of persistent depressive disorder, signs of depression must last for at least 2 years or more. Because of its long-lasting capacity, Persistent depressive disorder can leave more impact than the major depressive disorder. Clinical depression can be treated successfully; however, it is important to stick to a verified treatment plan.
It is common for people with Persistent depressive disorder to experience the following:
- lose interest in regular daily activities
- Lack of creativity and productivity
- Feeling hopeless
- Having low self-esteem
Bipolar depression is seen only in certain types of bipolar disorder when a person experiences a depressive episode. People who have bipolar disorder may experience major mood fluctuations or mood swings. Bipolar 2 episodes are uneven; for instance, typically, they range from manic episodes of happy or high energy and can suddenly become depressive episodes of low energy. These recurrent and uneven episodes of clinical depression depend on the type of bipolar disorder a person may be suffering from.
For diagnosis of bipolar 1 a person only has to have the presence of manic episodes; acute clinical depression is not a necessary condition for diagnosis. When bipolar disorder gets treated, many people experience fewer and less severe symptoms of clinical depression when the depressive episodes occur. Symptoms of depression in people who have bipolar disorder may have:
- Losing interest quickly or not able to enjoy regular activities.
- Feeling sad, anxious, empty, or worrying frequently.
- Not staying in high spirits or struggling to complete simple tasks.
- Difficulty in recalling information or memory loss.
- Sleeping too much or facing insomnia.
- Weight loss or weight gain as a result of appetite changes.
- Having thoughts about death or suicide.
Depression and Other Ailments
Other diseases can contribute to giving rise to depression or make it even graver. Acute stress, anxiety, diabetes, or any other serious and prolonged disease can intensify depression and may cause health complications. Let us understand the correlation and differences between depression and other health concerns.
Depression and Anxiety
Though they are a bit different, clinical depression and anxiety can affect a person at the same time. Researches even show that over 70% of people with depressive disorders also experience symptoms of anxiety.
Though different factors can be the cause behind the two, depression and anxiety can produce several similar problems and symptoms, which may include:
- Sleeping issues
- Problems in focusing and concentrating
- Memory loss
Both anxiety and depression have similar treatments and can coexist with each other. It is important to see a doctor if you experience the symptoms of one or both of the problems. The doctor will help identify underlying causes and provide appropriate medical treatment. The symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety can be treated with:
- Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapies
- Alternate therapies like hypnotherapy
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Depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a category of anxiety disorder. This is a condition that causes repeated and unwanted thoughts, fears, and urges. So much so that they become an obsession. These fears can cause a person to follow repeated behaviors, rituals, or compulsions that may make a person feel that they will ease the stress caused by the obsessions.
People who get OCD diagnosis may find themselves in a loop of compulsions and obsessions. The feeling of isolation also becomes common because of these behaviors. These tendencies ultimately lead to cutting off friends, avoiding social gatherings, meeting people, going out, and may aggravate clinical depression. It is not unusual for someone with OCD to also deal with clinical depression. People who have one anxiety disorder have higher chances of getting depression and other mental illnesses. Up to 80% of people with OCD deal with chronic depression.
The dual diagnosis of OCD and chronic depression is a concern with children as well. They may experience compulsive behaviors, which may occur during the growing years and at a young age. This may make them feel unusual or different from other kids of their age. That may give rise to social issues in children like not making friends or staying alone.
Depression During and Post-Pregnancy
Pregnancy is often an exciting time for the entire family. However, experiencing clinical depression during pregnancy is common among most women. Signs of depression during pregnancy may include:
- Frequent changes in appetite and eating habits
- Losing interest or getting bored easily by regular activities
- Problems in concentrating and recalling things
- Persistent feeling of sadness
- Insomnia, sleeplessness, or sleeping too much
- Thinking about death and suicide
Some women make natural treatments and therapy their go-to for dealing with chronic depression during pregnancy. Though some women avoid taking antidepressants during their pregnancy, the reason is that it is still unknown which are the safest. The doctors may encourage pregnant women to try alternative options even post-delivery. The risks for clinical depression continue to loom even after the baby arrives. This is also called postpartum depression, which is also known as the major depressive disorder with peripartum onset. This is a severe concern for new and young mothers.
Treatment of Clinical Depression
Dealing with depression is not at all easy, but treatments might help improve the quality of life. While many people still find it unnecessary, seeking help from an expert is the wisest thing to do to keep depression at bay. Some people manage to treat signs of depression with only one form of treatment, while for others, a combination of treatments may work the best. Healthcare providers commonly combine medical treatments and lifestyle therapies. These may include:
Doctors commonly prescribe medicines such as antianxiety, antidepressants, or antipsychotic medications.
- Psychotherapy- Speaking to a therapist can help people learn new and creative skills to cope with negative feelings. Group therapy sessions also help people who deal with clinical depression and drug abuse.
- Light therapy– Exposing oneself to doses of white light can help regulate mood and alleviate signs of depression. Doctors commonly use light therapy in seasonal affective disorder, which is now also called major depressive disorder with some seasonal patterns.
- Alternative therapies– Healthcare providers also enlighten patients about acupuncture or meditation. Alternate therapies or combining treatments must only be done under an expert’s supervision.
- Regular exercise– Signs of depression can gradually fade if a person aims for 30 minutes of workout or physical activity for 3 to 5 days a week. Exercise can increase the body’s production of endorphins; these hormones help uplift the mood.
Natural Treatments For Clinical Depression
Traditional depression treatments use a combination of medication and therapies. It is vital to note that many natural treatments have few studies showing their effects on depression. Similarly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve many dietary supplements; thus, it is wise to be selective to choose supplements for clinical depression. People looking for supplements for depression must consult their doctor before adding them to the diet or routine. Below are some effective daily supplements that are mostly safe and easy to add to the daily routine of people who have clinical depression-
Omega-3 fatty acids
These essential nutrients or fats are essential to neurological development and brain health. Including omega-3 supplements in the diet may help reduce signs of depression.
Essential oils are a famous natural remedy for many medical conditions, but more research has to be done to find its effects on depression. Essential oils like wild ginger or bergamot may help reduce anxiety and slow down the release of serotonin, also known as the stress hormone. These effects may lower signs of depression in people.
Vitamins are essential for many bodily functions. Research suggests two vitamins are critically beneficial for easing signs of depression. These are-
Vitamin B– Two vitamins namely, Vitamin B 12 and Vitamin B 6 are vital for brain function. When vitamin B levels are low in the body, the risk of developing clinical depression gets higher.
Vitamin D- Also called the sunshine vitamin because exposure to the sun supplies it to the body Vitamin D. It is important for heart, brain, and bone health. It may also alleviate signs of depression.
Depression can be a temporary or a long-term challenge. Treatment for clinical depression is not always a sure shot permanent solution. However, it is indeed helpful for managing symptoms and signs of depression. Selecting the right medicines and treatments by taking the help of a medical expert is the wisest thing to do while dealing with depression. A doctor’s attention is definitely required to help find out the appropriate treatment and identify problems that need profound solutions.
Q.1 How to know if you have depression?
Ans. If signs of depression like mood swings, behavior changes, and others are experienced for a prolonged time, one may understand it as a rise of depression. Other than this, people who have underlying diseases may also get to experience depression. It is vital to consult a doctor to identify if you have depression.
Q.2 How to help someone who is depressed?
Ans. Making a person reach a suitable treatment and healthcare provider is the best way to help someone come out of depression. Involving them in their favorite activities and group discussions might also help them deal with clinical depression.
Q.3 Is depression a disability?
Ans. Some organizations label depression as a psychiatric disability as it is a serious mood disorder that interferes with a person’s daily well-being.
Q.4 Is memory loss a symptom of depression?
Ans. Yes. Memory loss can be a symptom in people who have depression. However, it is a subjective symptom of depression.
Q.5 Can hormone imbalance cause depression?
Ans. Yes, some hormonal changes or the production of hormones can cause depression. Periods like menopause, childbirth, and health issues like thyroid, irregular periods can cause temporary or prolonged depression.