Each and every one of us has felt stressed, disappointed, or sad at some point in our lives. It can hit us when we experience loss or are faced with a significant obstacle. These feelings are completely normal when experienced temporarily; however, if that sadness stays with someone for an extended period of time and ends up affecting the way they lead their lives, it could be a signifier that the person is suffering from depression.
Causes of Depression
The 2 main causes of depression:
- Genetics or Background – Those who have a family history of depression, have a sensitive disposition, suffer from anxiety, view the world with pessimism or have a chemical imbalance in the brain are all at risk of developing depression.
- Environmental Factors that Occur throughout Childhood – This includes how someone has been raised by their parents, as well as how they are influenced by those around them.
Depressions tends to occur when someone experiences an event or events that stimulate their stress levels. It may also occur without these kinds of negative stimuli but such cases are in the minority.
Risk Factors That are Caused by Depression
Depression can lead to an increased risk of developing various health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, allergies, immunodeficiencies, dementia, and cancer. Additionally, patients with depression are more likely to experience accidents and are also at a higher risk of drug use, drug overdose, and suicide.
Forms of Depression
Depression can be categorized into the following 2 main types:
- Major Depressive Disorder – This is where patients experience intense, persistent sadness for an extended period of time.
- Bipolar Disorder – This is where patients suffer from mood swings more serious than those found in the general population; mood swings are extreme, between highs and lows, disrupting a person’s quality of life.
Symptoms of Depression
If you suspect that you or someone close to you is suffering from depression, watch for the following symptoms. If you observe at least 5 of these symptoms occurring in conjunction with each other for a period of no less than 14 consecutive days, with the symptoms occurring throughout the day, the person could be suffering from depression:
- Feeling down and fed up (for children and teenagers, this may mean that they get easily frustrated or lose their temper frequently)
- Feeling bored, losing interest in activities and not gaining any happiness from doing things
- Insomnia, restless sleep or sleeping through the day
- Getting tired easily and lacking energy
- A loss of appetite or overeating
- Feeling worthless and losing all self-esteem
- Finding it difficult to concentrate on tasks or feeling hesitant about doing things
- Speaking slowly, carrying out tasks more slowly than usual or feeling fidgety and being unable to sit still
- Harboring feelings of self-harm and self-destruction
Aside from observing the patient to assess whether he or she has been suffering from 5 or more of the aforementioned symptoms for a period of no less than 14 consecutive days, the doctor must also interview the patient to create a detailed picture of his or her situation – and sometimes relatives may be questioned about the patient as well – in order to better understand whether or not he or she is indeed suffering from depression, or if the symptoms stem from another mental disorder which displays similar indications of depression. This includes an assessment of the patient’s medical history to identify if there are any potential causes that could lead to depression.
The main form of treatment is offering advice and psychotherapy, alongside prescribing antidepressant medication as necessary. Depression is a curable condition with most patients’ symptoms gradually reducing after treatment, enabling them once again to return to their normal lives. It is important to note that the faster the condition is identified, the sooner treatments may be offered which can increase the chances of recovery. However, if left untreated, the condition could potentially become much more difficult to treat.
Side Effects of Anti-Depressant Medication
Antidepressant medication is considered safe, although some may suffer minimal side effects. That being said, some patients are still reluctant to take the full course of medication prescribed to them as they are afraid of becoming addicted or they are worried the medication will put them into a transitive state. However, antidepressant medication is non-addictive and it will not cause the taker to enter into any form of transitive state whatsoever.
Prevention of Depression
Depression can be prevented by adhering to the following:
- A Healthy Diet – Eating a healthy, balanced diet consisting of the 5 food groups consumed in moderation will help with preventing depression; nutrient deficiencies such as a shortage of omega, vitamins E, C and D, iron, and copper can increase the risk of developing depression.
- Exercise – People are advised to exercise at least 4 times per week for 30–40 minutes per day. Exercise may be light, like a brisk walk.
- Rest – Getting a sufficient amount of sleep is essential to wake up feeling refreshed throughout the following day.
- Mindfulness – Studies have found that practicing mindfulness techniques can increase mental wellbeing and reduce stress levels.
- Optimism – Try to view the world in a positive light, as this will give the much-needed mental strength needed to succeed through periods of great stress and discomfort.