Health

Depression – Causes, Signs, Symptoms & Prevention

In our country, mental disorders are often regarded with an orthodox mindset. One such disease that is still fighting the social stereotypes and is emerging out of the closet is depression. Lately, many public personalities are talking about having battled the disease. The stigma that has been attached to being ‘depressed’ is gradually shedding away and more and more people are seeking professional help for depression. So, what is depression? The first thing that anybody needs to understand about this disease is that it is not merely being in sad state temporarily. Though the term ‘Depression’ is used very commonly these days but when it is used in medical diction, it means a very specific disorder, which one might also refer to as clinical depression or major depressive disorder.

Clinical depression is when one feels sad, anxious, hopeless or pessimistic for at least a period of two weeks. The person may feel guilt-ridden, worthless and have morbid thoughts. The common belief that Depression is only a mental disease is wrong. There are physical repercussions of Depression too which drain the person mentally as well. He may experience trouble in concentration, indecisiveness, changes in sleep pattern, changes in his appetite, changes in body weight, imaginary pains in the body, restlessness and irritability. To be declared as clinically depressed, you must have at least five of the above symptoms for at least a period of two weeks. The state of Depression can be mild or severe. If the disease doesn’t last for at least two years, it is called ‘persistent depressive disorder’.

One needs to understand that being depressed or having a child who is depressed is not something one should be ashamed of. Just like any other disease, Depression can occur to anyone. People do not choose to be depressed and despite their coldness during their disease, this is the time when they need your love more than most. Always, see a doctor even if you just suspect that you or your love one might be in risk of the disease.

Depression causes

Many a times people wonder what exactly triggers depression. Often mental diseases are hard to understand and this complexity can cause people to misunderstand the disease. Depression can be caused due to a combination of biological, environmental and psychological factors. Though it usually begins in adulthood, more and more children and adolescents are now being diagnosed with the disease.

Depression can also often occur with other disorders such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s Disease. The medications taken during these illnesses can lead to the occurrence of depression and will make the condition of the sufferer worse. Other reasons could be more related to lifestyle or certain life events, such as the death of a loved one, transferring to another city, relationship issues, financial issues, among many other such reasons. Besides these, a lot of times Depression may not have any understandable reason. A person could have everything he wished for and still get bouts of Depression and feel sad for no apparent reason.

There are multiple risk factors than can contribute to Depression:

1. Mental trauma/Abuse: 
Any kind of physical, emotional and sexual abuse in the past can lead to clinical Depression. Abuse makes a person more vulnerable to psychological trauma.

2. Genetic factors: A history of Depression that runs in the family can lead to Depression in the future generations. It is a little difficult to exactly point out the genes that are involved as there are multiple and different genes that increase the risk factor.

3. Substance abuse: Many people who indulge in substance abuse are clinically diagnosed as depressed. The statistics show that as many as 30 per cent of the total people who indulge in substance abuse are diagnosed as clinically depressed.

4. Loss of a loved one: Loss of a loved one can severely impact one’s mental health. The person can have a severe bout of sadness that persists for too long. It can contribute to the development of Depression.

5. Certain diseases/medications: As pointed out above, medications for certain diseases can cause the person to develop the disease. It could be due to the mental trauma that one goes through at that time or due to impact of the medication that he/she is on.

6. Life changing events: Certain life changing events such as a job termination, financial losses, change of country, relationship problems, etc. can trigger Depression.

Besides the above common causes, there are many other risk factors that are associated with the disease. The state of Depression could also be temporary as there is a form of Depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It only afflicts the patients during weather changes. Data shows that about 5 per cent Americans suffer with this form of Depression.

More of a recent trend, social media addiction is also known to trigger Depression in many. Addiction to internet can make it difficult for one to have real-life human interaction. This kind of Depression has been termed as ‘Facebook Depression’ by experts.

Biology and Depression

Studies have shown that the size of hippocampus in the people who have undergone Depression is comparatively smaller than in those who have not been clinically diagnosed as depressed. A hippocampus that is smaller in size means lesser serotonin receptors, which further translates into a poor communication between circuits that connect the parts of the brain that help in processing emotions.

The exact reasons for a smaller hippocampus are not known but studies show that the stress hormone cortisol, which is produced in excess in people with Depression, can shrink the hippocampus. On the other hand, some medical experts say that there are many people who are born with a predisposition to Depression because they have a smaller hippocampus.

Many a times the person suffering from Depression doesn’t himself know about the disease that’s developing in his mind. Often, they may appear as cheerful and outgoing but their minds continue to function at a different degree. Social stigma makes it even more difficult for the people to diagnose Depression in them or in people around them.

Depression symptoms

Symptoms of Depression will vary from person to person but the early signs of the disease may include the following:
1. Fatigue and low energy
2. Body aches, headaches and cramps that do not have a clear physical cause
3. Irritability
4. Insomnia or excessive sleep
5. Feeling of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
6. Losing interest in activities once loved
7. Difficulty in concentration or decision-making
8. Appetite changes
9. Weight gain or loss
10. Morbid and suicidal thoughts
11 . Loss of confidence and social withdrawal

Other forms of depression
There are four forms of Depression that are slightly different and may develop under some specific circumstances:

1. Persistent depressive disorder (or dysthymia)
It is a disorder in which the patient will have episodes of major Depression which will be interrupted by periods of less severe disorder. To be diagnosed with the disease, one must show symptoms for at least 2 years.

2. Perinatal Depression
Wrongly stereotyped as mere ‘baby blues’, perinatal Depression is way more severe. It is major Depression that hits a woman during pregnancy or after delivering a baby. It is associated with feelings of anxiety and sadness that make it difficult for the mother to perform her daily activities.

3. Psychotic Depression
This condition occurs when Depression occurs along with a form of psychosis. The patient might hear or see things which are imaginary in nature. His delusions and hallucinations are often negative in nature.

4. Seasonal affective disorder
It affects people during the winter season when there is less natural sunlight. It can be accompanied by social withdrawal and more sleep.

Prevention depression

It affects people during the winter season when there is less natural sunlight. It can be accompanied by social withdrawal and more sleep.

1. Staying busy may help in preventing Depression but overburdening yourself with work can also create stress, which is also a risk factor for Depression.

2. One of the best ways to prevent Depression is exercising regularly. Exercise is considered as an antidepressant and may act like an antidote to stress.

3. Indulge yourself in fun activities as it may help in diverting your attention.

4. Working on a positive attitude may do wonders in preventing Depression.

5. Not only on your mental health, focusing on physical health also helps in preventing Depression. The mind-body connection plays a great role in fighting Depression.

6. If you’re prone to Depression, you may mentally blame yourself for every mishappening. Stop berating yourself as it could lead to serious complications.

7. Proper eating and exercising helps in maintaining mental as well as physical health. A diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals can be helpful to elevate your mood. Avoid alcohol and tobacco and eat healthy.

8. Don’t stop treatment. Even if you feel energetic and happy, continue with your medication. Consult your doctor and stop medication only after an expert recommendation.

9. Health experts suggest that for many, gratitude is a way to happiness. According to a study published in the journal American Psychologist, people who performed daily gratitude practices, like making a list of three good things in their life, had lower levels of Depression.

10. If you feel depressed, join a support group. These groups are helpful as people involved in these groups know how to manage their Depression and can provide excellent advice and support to others.

11. If you feel depressed, talk to your friends and family. Don’t feel shy as their support can be helpful in treating Depression.

12. It’s important to take rest as you recover. Sleep helps in regulating moods and is necessary for both mental and physical health.

[“Source-timesofindia”]