Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home.
Depression Is Different From Sadness or Grief/Bereavement
The death of a loved one, loss of a job or the ending of a relationship are difficult experiences for a person to endure. It is normal for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to such situations. Those experiencing loss often might describe themselves as being “depressed.”
But being sad is not the same as having depression. The grieving process is natural and unique to each individual and shares some of the same features of depression. Both grief and depression may involve intense sadness and withdrawal from usual activities. They are also different in important ways:
- In grief, painful feelings come in waves, often intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. In major depression, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are decreased for most of two weeks.
- In grief, self-esteem is usually maintained. In major depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common.
- In grief, thoughts of death may surface when thinking of or fantasizing about “joining” the deceased loved one. In major depression, thoughts are focused on ending one’s life due to feeling worthless or undeserving of living or being unable to cope with the pain of depression.
Grief and depression can co-exist For some people, the death of a loved one, losing a job or being a victim of a physical assault or a major disaster can lead to depression. When grief and depression co-occur, the grief is more severe and lasts longer than grief without depression.
Distinguishing between grief and depression is important and can assist people in getting the help, support or treatment they need.
Risk Factors for Depression
Depression can affect anyone—even a person who appears to live in relatively ideal circumstances.
Several factors can play a role in depression:
- Biochemistry: Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
- Genetics: Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 percent chance of having the illness sometime in life.
- Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
- Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
The symptoms of depression can include:
?A depressed mood: reduced interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
?A loss of sexual desire
?Changes in appetite
?Unintentional weight loss or gain
?Sleeping too much or too little
?Agitation, restlessness, and pacing up and down
?Slowed movement and speech
?Fatigue or loss of energy
?Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty in thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
?Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or an attempt at suicide
How Is Depression Treated?
Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80% and 90% percent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment. Almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms.
Before a diagnosis or treatment, a health professional should conduct a thorough diagnostic evaluation, including an interview and a physical examination. In some cases, a blood test might be done to make sure the depression is not due to a medical condition like a thyroid problem or a vitamin deficiency (reversing the medical cause would alleviate the depression-like symptoms). The evaluation will identify specific symptoms and explore medical and family histories as well as cultural and environmental factors with the goal of arriving at a diagnosis and planning a course of action.
Depression is treatable, and managing symptoms usually involves three components:
?Support: This can range from discussing practical solutions and possible causes to educating family members.
?Psychotherapy: Also known as talking therapy, some options include one-to-one counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
?Drug treatment: A doctor may prescribe antidepressants.
Antidepressants can help treat moderate-to-severe depression.
Several classes of antidepressants are available:
?selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
?monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
?selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
NATURAL WAYS TO TREAT DEPRESSION
?Take on responsibilities
?Challenge negative thoughts
?Try something new
?Avoid alcohol and drugs
Written by: Josephine Wuraola