What Is Depression?
Depression is a mental disorder that affects a person's moods. It affects millions of people around the world. People with depression may feel sad, angry, irritable, tired, confused, guilty, hopeless or worthless. However, please note that everyone has mood swings and being depressed once in a blue moon is exactly normal. Depression occurs only when the person feels depressed and down for a period lasting weeks to months.
When a person is diagnosed with depression, it's bad news for himself and his family. It's painful for the person and can also be difficult for the person's family. Depression if left untreated could get worse. It will affect a person's ability to function in daily life and work. Worst still, depression even may lead a person to suicide.
Causes Of Depression
Depression has no single cause; often, it results from a combination of things. You may have no idea why depression has struck you.
There are essentially two reasons for depression: biological factors and environmental interactive factors. A combination of biological and environmental factors is obviously another possibility.
When discussing biological causes of depression, essentially what's being referenced is a chemical imbalance in the brain. There are different chemicals at work in the brain, operating in complex functions. There's a correlation between low levels of particular chemicals within the brain and emotional and psychological dysfunctions, depression included.
One of the chemicals believed to have a primary function in the regulation of mood is serotonin. Low serotonin levels have been associated not only with depression but with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and anger and aggression abnormalities.
Environmental Interactive Factors
The other side of the coin in the thinking on depression causes is that depression is purely a function of environmental interactive factors. That is to say, depression isn't caused by any biological imbalance at all but instead occurs because of how a person responds to their environment. As one example, an individual may consider the break up of a relationship as a significant loss and fall into a depression as a result. From an environmental interactive position the thinking would be that this particular depression isn't due to some brain dysfunction but is instead caused by the significance this person attaches to a life event: a relationship break up in this particular case. Using this sort of explanation, all forms of depression can be explained by a person's perspective as opposed to any biological factors.
Types Of Depression
Depressive disorders come in different forms. Three of the most common are Major Depression, Dysthymia, and Bipolar Disorder. Even within these types of depression there are variations in the number of symptoms, their severity, and persistence.
Major depression is when a person has five or more symptoms of depression for at least 2 weeks. These symptoms include feeling sad, hopeless, worthless, or pessimistic. In addition, people with major depression often have behavior changes, such as new eating and sleeping patterns.
Major depression is not just a state of mind. It is a debilitating disease that can make a person suffer both physically and mentally. For the person who suffers from major depression, thoughts of suicide can be an everyday occurrence.
When major depression strikes, things that we take for granted everyday like getting out of bed and getting ready for work, are impossible. The feeling of overwhelming grief is so strong that they cannot function.
People with dysthymia generally experience little or no joy in their lives. Instead things are rather gloomy most of the time. If you have dysthymia you may be unable to remember a time when you felt happy, excited, or inspired. It may seem as if you have been depressed all your life. You probably have a hard time enjoying things and having fun. Rather, you might tend to be inactive and withdrawn , you worry frequently, and criticize yourself as being a failure. You may also feel guilty, irritable, sluggish, and have difficulty sleeping regularly.
Dysthymia is a milder yet more enduring type of depression that affects women two to three times more often than men. The diagnosis is given when a person has had continuous depressed mood for at least two years. For children, the duration only needs to be one year, and their mood may be irritable rather than sad or depressed. People with dysthymia may appear to be chronically mildly depressed to the point that it seems to be a part of their personality.
Bipolar Disorder (also called manic-depression)
Bipolar Disorder (also called manic-depression) is another type of depressive disorder. Bipolar disorder is thought to be less common than other depressive disorders. If you have bipolar disorder you are troubled by cycling mood swings - usually severe highs (mania) and lows (depression). The mood swings are sometimes dramatic and rapid, but usually are more gradual.
When in the depressed stage, a person can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic stage, the individual may be overactive, overtalkative, and have a great deal of energy. Mania affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior, sometimes in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. A person in a manic phase may feel elated, full of grand schemes that might range from unwise business decisions to romantic sprees. Mania, left untreated, may worsen to a psychotic state, where the person is out of touch with reality.
Signs And Symptoms Of Depression
Feeling sad or "down" for a few days is not the same as exhibiting symptoms of depression. According to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), real depression is a condition of this nature that lasts for more than two weeks.
If you have experienced five or more of these depression symptoms below within the same two week period--especially if a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure are among your symptoms--this could be indicative of an episode of depression.
- Depressed Mood
- Decreased Interest or Pleasure
- Weight Changes
- Sleep Disturbances
- Psychomotor Agitation or Retardation
- Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt
- Diminished Ability to Think, Concentrate or Make Decisions
- Thoughts of Death
Treatment And Cure For Depression
Except in the more severe depressions, and bipolar depression, medication is usually an option, rather than a necessity. Antidepressant medication does not cure depression, it only helps you to feel better by controlling certain symptoms. If you are depressed because of life problems, such as relationship conflicts, divorce, loss of a loved one, job pressures, financial crises, serious medical problems in yourself or a family member, legal problems, or problems with your children, taking a pill will not make those problems go away.
Just as the symptoms and causes of depression are different in different people, so are the ways to feel better. What works for one person might not work for another, and no one treatment is appropriate in all cases. If you recognize the signs of depression in yourself or a loved one, take some time to explore the many treatment options. In most cases, the best approach involves a combination of self-help strategies, lifestyle changes, and professional help.
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