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Depression, Signs, Symptoms, Latest Treatments, Tests and More
Everybody can feel sad at times, but depression is different from unhappiness and other emotions that a person may feel in difficult life events. Depression is a mental illness or a mood disorder that affects your thinking, feelings and behaviour. You develop a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. People suffering from depression may have trouble doing day-to-day activities and even feel as if life isn't worth living.
Depression can undermine your relationships and cause physical and emotional problems. It’s not a weakness and you can snap out of it even though it may require long-term treatment. Depression is treatable with the help of medication, psychotherapy (talk therapy) or both. Let us understand in detail what depression is, its types and symptoms and how to treat depression.
What is Depression?
Depression is not an act of laziness or a lack of will for change. It's a disorder which makes you believe that change is not possible for you and that you are stuck in overpowering darkness that can never go away.
Depression blunts sensations of pleasure, shuts down your hope and often causes deep emotional pain not only to the affected one but to that person's close ones as well. This mental health condition may last for several weeks, months or years, but, don't get discouraged. It is quite a common mental illness and is curable.
Causes of Depression
There are many factors which may cause depression. These may include −
Genetics − If your biological parent or a sibling has depression, researchers say that you are three times as likely to develop depression as compared to others. However, you may develop this mental illness without a family history as well.
Life events − Stressful life occurrences such as the death of a loved one, trauma, isolation, divorce, financial problems or lack of cooperation and support can trigger depression.
Imbalance in the brain − Sometimes an imbalance of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine in the brain may contribute to the development of depression in a person.
Medical conditions − Chronic medical conditions like diabetes and chronic pain may cause depression.
Medicines − Some medicines may develop depression as a side effect.
Moreover, prolonged consumption of alcohol can also worsen depression. It is very important to understand if you are simply sad due to a certain event or have developed depression. Understanding the symptoms of depression can help you decide if you are suffering from the same or not.
Symptoms of Depression
In depression, symptoms occur most of the day and nearly every day. They may vary slightly depending on the type of depression and may range from mild to severe. Some of the psychological and physical symptoms of depression include −
Persistent depressed mood
Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
Reduced appetite and weight loss or weight gain due to increased cravings for food
Anger outbursts, irritability or frustration over small matters
A feeling of emptiness or hopelessness
Sleep disturbances like insomnia (lack of sleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
Anxiety, agitation and restlessness
Slowed body movements including speaking
Feeling of guilt, self-blame or continuously thinking or talking about past failures
Thoughts of committing a suicide or self-harm or suicide attempts
Frequent thoughts of death
Physical issues like back pain, stomach ache, sexual dysfunction or headaches
Trouble in concentrating, decision-making and remembering things
Not enjoying things that used to bring joy or pleasure
Often wanting to stay at home rather than socialize
Depression Symptoms in Children and Teens
Common symptoms of depression in children and teenagers may be similar to those of adults, but there can be some differences as well. In children, signs of depression may include clinginess, refusing to go to school and being underweight along with sadness, irritability and aches.
Teenagers may experience symptoms like poor performance or poor school attendance, feeling misunderstood by their elders and feeling negative, worthless and sensitive. Furthermore, teenagers may avoid social interaction, lose interest in normal activities, experience eating or sleeping disorders and indulge in self-harm, recreational drugs or alcohol.
Consult a doctor immediately if you feel your sadness has been persistent or you are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms. Your doctor can tell you if you are suffering from depression or not.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Healthcare providers diagnose the person with a specific type of depression based on the context of the symptoms. If you have five depression symptoms every day and nearly all day for at least two weeks, you can consult a doctor and go for medical tests as asked by your doctor.
Mental health professionals often ask questions in a form of a questionnaire to assess the severity of depression. The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale is one of those questionnaires which usually have 21 questions. The score helps the doctors to identify the severity among people who have been diagnosed as depression patients. Another questionnaire which can help mental health professionals to measure a person's symptoms is the Back Depression Inventory.
Blood tests could be conducted to check if the depression is caused due to any underlying medical condition. Also, the doctors understand your medical and mental health history to decide the course of treatment.
Depression is one of the most curable mental illnesses and the treatment options are as follows −
Psychotherapy (Talk Therapy)
This involves talking with a mental health expert and the therapist can help you identify your unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviours so that you can change them. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the common therapies, and people may continue this for several months or years.
Doctors may prescribe antidepressants to treat depression. These antidepressants may include any of the following −
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
Some drugs can also have side effects and hence, one must take these medications as per the doctor's prescription.
Brain Stimulation Therapy
This therapy can help people suffering from depression with psychosis or the ones who have severe depression. Types of this therapy include
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
People with mild depression or ongoing symptoms can take the help of acupuncture, massage, hypnosis or biofeedback to improve their well-being. These treatments are usually given along with medicines.
You can't always prevent depression, but you can reduce the risk of developing this mental illness by maintaining a healthy sleep routine, managing stress with coping mechanisms and indulging in self-care activities. Eating a healthy diet, spending time with your loved ones, avoiding alcohol and doing regular exercise, meditation and yoga may keep you away from developing depression.
Although depression is a serious and chronic medical illness, it is treatable. This disorder can affect a person psychologically as well as physically, but this is not a sign of weakness. Treating depression could be challenging but seeking the help of mental health professionals may increase the chances of recovery.
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