Depression: Causes, Symptoms, Types and Treatment
Life with its ups and downs makes most of us go through myriad human emotions such as exhilaration, contentment, ecstasy, melancholy, grief, dejection, trepidation, worry, concern and anxiety amongst a host of others. Nonetheless, these are normal emotions manifest as per situations and state of affairs. However, at times these emotions tend to reinforce leading to emotional blues. These blues often lead to anxiety and mood disorders becoming debilitating leaving the person incapable of leading a normal day-to-day life. Wallowing in despair, combined with a feeling of emptiness often leads to depression.
What is depression?
Depression according to MediLexicon’s Medical Dictionary, is “a mental state or chronic mental disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, loneliness, despair, low self-esteem, and self-reproach; accompanying signs include psychomotor retardation (or less frequently agitation), withdrawal from social contact, and vegetative states such as loss of appetite and insomnia.“
Depression, a killer disease apparent especially amongst youngsters, is an inability to enjoy life to its fullest is. Clinical depression, a mood disorder is an obsession over negativity, gloom and cynicism. Existing with depression is traumatic, as the person becomes a recluse with suicidal tendencies, causing agony to those near and dear.
Different types of Depression
Depression sets off in various forms, each occurring with its unique significance, indication and reasons. Understanding the symptoms and identifying the type of depression may help overcome the problem with effective treatment and certain lifestyle changes.
Major depressive disorder or unipolar depression, subjective to environmental and biological factors, with symptoms varying from mild to acute is often categorized with an ineffectiveness to lead a normal routine life. A chronic disorder occurring as a single or multiple episodes persisting for about six months, they increase risk of developing bulimia, anorexia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive, panic and borderline personality disorders.
Minor Depression (Dysthymia)
Minor Depression or Dysthymia in contrast to Major depression does not have extreme symptoms. However, they continue for at least a couple of years making the individual perpetually feeling low. Similar to major depressive disorder, they are symptomatic with an inability of normal functioning besides feeling unwell. In some cases, individuals experience major depression in addition to Dysthymia leading to a condition known as “Double depression” .Nevertheless, left untreated this disorder is likely to intensify into a major depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
The onset of the monsoon with torrential heavy downpour, Hurricanes and windstorms is symbolised with feelings of dark despair and melancholy in movies and fiction. This is especially true of people suffering from depression during fall or winter with overcast skies and inadequate sunlight. This form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is prevalent among younger individuals and those living in northern climates such as United Kingdom and Canada.
Nonetheless, to beat the winter blues, light therapy is highly beneficial. This therapy is a treatment that involves sitting in front of a special light for half an hour. However, in a majority of the cases, light therapy combined with psychotherapy and antidepressants prove effectual.
Unlike major depressive disorder and dysthymia, Bipolar disorder or manic depression, as commonly known, is quite unusual. With frequent mood swings and at least one instance of manic disorders, relating to symptoms such as reckless, agitated and hysterical characteristics combined with an expression of rapid communication and insomnia. These symptoms ranging from extreme highs to lows, endure for several weeks. With 60% higher chances of suicidal tendencies, this disorder is the consequence of various factors such as environmental psychological and genetic. Nevertheless, antidepressants and psychotherapy relieve symptoms of bipolar disorders.
A common universal problem linked with childbirth is postpartum depression, which is in way connected to baby blues. However, studies indicate that almost 10 to 15% of the women within a month of post delivery experience depressive symptoms, which often go ignored or untreated. Certain biological and psychological factors such as new responsibilities of caring for the new arrival as well as physical and emotional changes taking place due to hormonal changes are the main contributors towards this kind of depression. Although meticulous nursing and psychotherapy prove effectual, most mothers with postpartum depression after delivery may have possibilities of experiencing depression in future.
Severe mental disorder combined with symptoms of psychosis such as hearing thoughts, delusions, hallucinations, false beliefs with a detachment from reality is psychotic depression. Although individuals suffering from schizophrenia go through these symptoms those with psychotic disorder are aware that their beliefs and thoughts are not real. Therefore, it becomes extremely difficult to diagnose this disorder. Although there is no proper evidence, studies believe that the steroid cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands excreted in abundance during stressful situations due to various psychological and biological reasons could be a major contributing factor for this disorder. However, this disorder often leads to Bipolar disorder with frequent outbreaks of depression with suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
Common Symptoms of Depression
The symptoms of depression although constituting a segment of life’s despondency may differ in each individual, depending largely on the severity, frequency and the duration of the illness. However, with few individuals feeling the blues the signs may perhaps be more intense than others enduring for long. Besides, these individuals with devastating symptoms may be unable to follow a regular routine rendering them helpless. Nevertheless, some of the symptoms are common which alters their attitude towards life in general.
Negative thoughts and emotions with a sense of despair plague individuals suffering from depression. They suffer from guilt feeling unworthy imagining a bleak empty future.
Another common symptom is withdrawal from people and social contacts. They keep themselves isolated resorting to self-criticism for any mishaps in life. A constant feeling of anxiety, melancholy and emptiness engulf these individual suffering from depressive disorders.
Changes in Appetite
Loss of appetite resulting in eating disorders or over indulgence in food leading to considerable weight loss/ gain is a typical symptom of people with depression.
Those with depressive disorders experience fatigue and exhaustion along with a feeling of heaviness and sluggishness in the body finding simple tasks daunting.
Insomnia (lack of sleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleep) at times with early awakening are a few other symptoms of depression.
Irritability and anger
Due to sleep disturbances and other contributing factors there is an overall feeling of low tolerance, irritability and short temperedness with a tendency towards violent and aggressive behaviour.
Lack of focus
Lack of focus, concentration, memory and an inability to make decisions are other signs of depression.
Aches and pains
Depression results in unexplained Pain in the head, muscles, back stomach with digestive problems that do not improve with treatment.
Disinterest in activities
Disinterest in past activities of interest, hobbies and sex is another indication of depression.
Suicidal attempts and thoughts
Thoughts of death and suicide with a tendency to act on the thought process are a dangerous warning of depression.
Common causes of Depression
According to experts, Depression occurs in individuals due to a combination of biological, psychological and social factors.
Symptoms of depression occur due to deficiencies or imbalances in serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters in the brain. These are mainly responsible for depressive symptoms such as weariness, bad temper and apprehension.
Studies indicate the influence of various genes combined with environmental factors is a major cause for depression.
Depression is more prevalent among women than men. This is due to the hormonal changes occurring at various stages in life such as Premenstrual syndrome commonly known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), postpartum depression and premenopausal depression. Osteoporosis and extra responsibilities of meeting challenges both at home and at work are other factor contributing to depression. Nevertheless, studies are underway regarding the fluctuations in estrogens and other hormones, which might have a direct impact on a woman’s brain chemistry.
Although not a normal part of advancing years, most senior citizens are prone to depression. Despite suffering from age related diseases, most seniors are contented with their lives, except when living independently sans social contact, dependency, ill health, bereavement and grief. However, the illness may be disregarded or left untreated, as most of them complain about their physical inabilities instead of apparent emotional symptoms. Nevertheless, either psychotherapy or antidepressants may prove effective.
Depression is correlated with certain medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, pyroluria, Anaemia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cancer, stroke, heart disease, chronic pain and thyroid deficiencies
Medications and alcohol
Depression is rampant in individuals with chronic narcotics alcohol dependency and certain prescribed medications. This results in personality disorders, marital discord, mood swings and erratic behaviour.
Trauma and stress
Signs of depression are evident with physical, emotional abuse, violence, bereavement because of a dear departed soul, a complicated relationship or a distressing medical condition.
Depression also may be due to certain positive aspects such as obtaining a new job, entering into holy matrimony or due to other nerve-racking incidences such as taking care of someone sick, separation and divorce.
How to overcome depression?
Antidepressants prescribed to overcome depression help stabilise the chemicals in the brain and regulate mood disorders.
Talk therapy or psychotherapy is of two types known as Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal therapy (IPT) that are beneficial for people with all forms of depression. Provided by trained therapists they adopt various methods for bringing an overall change in the individual, helping with personal interactions and behavioural change. CBT helps individuals overcome pessimistic thoughts and attitude, which is one of the major contributors for depression. IPTis helping people conquer feelings pertaining to difficult relationships. For individuals suffering from major depression an amalgamation of talk therapy and medications are essential.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
When psychotherapy and medication are futile, Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or shock therapy is considerably effective for individuals with psychotic depression who do not respond to treatment.
Simple Self help tips to overcome depression
Avoiding pessimism and focussing with a deep sense of gratitude on the positive aspects of life is extremely vital for beating the blues.
Sunshine and Exercise
Studies indicate that a deficiency in sunlight and physical activity might make an individual succumb to physical as well as mental depression. Hence, an early morning walk in the sunlight might help invigorate the souls and help meet the day’s challenges. (Read more about benefits of sunlight and morning walk)
Well balanced nutritious diet
According to studies, food has a great influence over the moods of an individual and helps stabilise the hormones. Therefore, it would be wise to consume foods rich in vitamin B complex combined with vitamins D and C. In addition, zinc magnesium and calcium help avoid irritability mood swings trepidation and anger.Omega3 fatty acids help stabilise the neurotransmitters in the brain, thereby balancing hormones providing a feel good feeling and keeping depression at bay.
Sleep and Relaxation
To combat depression, sound sleep of eight hours is required. Therefore, it is vital to avoid changes in sleeping patterns that affect the biological clock causing innumerable health problems.
Socializing and relationships
Meeting sharing feelings, keeping in touch with trusted friends and family members along with frequent socializing may do a whole world of good to elevate mood levels and avoid preoccupations with depression. Thus, rediscover the joys of human contact essential for a person’s over all well-being.
Caring for a pet may help individuals reconnect the pleasure of companionship in addition, happiness. This keeps them help cope with feelings of rejection and depression.
Pick up long forgotten hobbies of the past such as reading books, listening to music, teaching creative ideas, could help renew a sense of self-esteem and worth.
According to research consuming eight to nine glasses of water a day, keeps the body well hydrated thus preventing symptoms of depression. However, it would be better to keep away from caffeine as they have a tendency to cause depression.
Change of scene
A change of scene, breaking the monotony, especially when the place is a constant reminder of past anxieties and worries, may lead to a dramatic makeover in the person’s disposition. However, with a little effort of tidying up the place in addition to few decorative accents, there could be a pleasant change in the surrounding ambience and mood providing a distraction from the usual unpleasant reminders.
Instead of bearing a grudge, forgiving the people responsible for hurts and disappointments in life would make the heart feel lighter, less restless, providing a sense of inner peace and calm.
Yoga and meditation
Yoga and meditation help overcome symptoms of depression as they promote circulatory health enabling proper function of the organs. Without antidepressants, they help battle depression naturally helping the pituitary gland release endorphins, a happy hormone stimulating happiness.