What is depression?
Depression is one of the most common medical conditions worldwide. It is important to remember that depression should not be seen as a weakness and it is not something that you can simply get out of. Depression or major depressive disorder is a medical illness that involves the body and mind. It affects how a person thinks and behaves and it can cause different physical, emotional, and mental problems. Usually, a person will not be able to go through his usual daily activities if he is experiencing depression.
People who experience depression describe the feeling as a “black curtain” that suddenly came over their lives. They become lethargic and they lose the ability to concentrate. Meanwhile, there are also some people who become irritable all the time without reason. The symptoms of depression can vary from one person to another. But generally, you can be considered “depressed” when you feel down for two weeks or more.
Treatments, experience, living with depression
Health professional consider depression as a chronic illness that needs long-term treatment. You should take note though that some people experience only one episode of depression; that is, there may be a time when they feel as if their life is not worth living. However, there are also people who experience multiple episodes of debilitating depression throughout their life. Also, a lot of people who have gone through an episode of depression are likely to have another one. You will begin to experience the signs of depression a few weeks before the full-blown episode. When you learn to recognise these symptoms, you can work with your doctor to keep it from becoming worse.
Most of the time, accurate diagnosis and effective treatment can significantly reduce the symptoms of severe depression. With these treatments, most people will feel better and return to their normal daily activities. But one of the major problems in handling depression is that a lot of people don’t seek help. It is important for everyone to realise that treating depression is essential because it has a negative effect on you, your family, your friends, and your work. Some people who are coping with depression can also tend to harm themselves because they experience the feeling that things will never change.
Depression can be controlled and cured. But the first step should come from the patient. By accepting the fact that you have depression and having the courage to seek help to cure it, you are already taking the first step toward a better quality of life.
How to identify depression?
Depressive feelings are a common part of life. They come and go. They are not always a sign of illness and actually can be an important source of guidance as we navigate the complex waters of a human life. The first question to answer, therefore, is whether to view your current depression as normal or pathological (an illness).
Normal depression will have fewer of the symptoms (a medical term that designates aspects of a condition) listed below. Pathological depression will have more and is a source of great suffering both to the person who has it, and to those closely associated with them.
Here is a list of the symptoms we usually associate with depression:
• Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
• Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
• Irritability, restlessness
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
• Fatigue and decreased energy
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
• Insomnia, early morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
• Overeating or appetite loss
• Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
• Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
A handy mnemonic (remembering device) for these symptoms that psychiatrists and psychologists commonly use is:
SIGECAPS=SIG + Energy + CAPSules
Sleep disorder (either increased or decreased sleep)*
Interest deficit (anhedonia)
Guilt (worthlessness,* hopelessness,* regret)
Appetite disorder (either decreased or increased)*
Psychomotor retardation or agitation
To meet the diagnosis of major depression, a patient must have four of the symptoms that have asterisks, plus depressed mood or anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure), for at least two weeks. To meet the diagnosis of dysthymic disorder (persistent mild depression), a patient must have two of the six symptoms marked with an asterisk – plus depression – for at least two years.)
What are the causes of depression?
No one knows exactly what are the causes of depression or who gets depression. This is because like other mental illnesses, it can be bought about by genetic, biochemical, and environmental factors.
• Biochemical – high-tech imaging shows that people with depression undergo some physical changes in the brain. The significance of this discovery is not yet known but it may eventually help pinpoint the exact cause of depression. The brain chemical called neurotransmitters is linked to a person’s mood and it may be part of the reason why depression occurs. In addition, hormonal imbalances could also be the culprit.
• Genetics – various studies have revealed the depression is actually more common to people whose biological parents also experience the same condition. Researchers are still trying to find the specific gene that causes depression.
• Environment – environmental situations are the current situation on your life that you need to cope with. This can include financial loss, high stress, or the loss of a loved one. Some people become depressed when they experience the lows bought about by these issues.
There can be times when a person doesn’t have any idea why he experienced depression. This is because depression can result from the combination of different factors. But whatever the cause, you should remember that depression is both a state of mind and a physical problem. And as such, any potential treatment for this disorder should focus both on the mind and body. Other common factors that are involved in depression include:
• Pessimistic personality – people who have low self-esteem issues and negative perspective are more likely to become depressed compared to optimistic people. Usually though, these trails will only cause low-level depression or a disorder known as dysthymia.
• Stress – changes in your life can also cause depression. For example, if you are unable to cope with changes when you graduate from school, start a new job, or get married, depression may also occur.
• Current physical condition – medical conditions such as HIV, cancer, and heart problems can also be the cause of depression. This is partly because a person who suffers from these diseases suffers from constant stress and physical weakness. In addition, it is also important to note that these diseases and depression are related to each other. Depression can make these medical conditions worse because it weakens and vice versa.
• Psychological disorders – different kinds of disorders such as eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse can be present together with depression.
How depression affects us?
Before you begin to think that you are depressed, you need to remember that there is a wide difference between “feeling” depressed and suffering from actual clinical depression. Usually, you will know that you are suffering from the latter if you experience overwhelming and unrelenting despondency for several weeks. People who had experienced the feeling describe it as “living in a black hole” or having the constant feeling of helplessness. They are unable to escape despair and unhappiness; however, it is also important to take note that some people with depression don’t even feel sad. Instead, they feel empty and lethargic.
When a person is at a depressed state, he is unwilling to experience happiness or pleasure. He will no longer find anything fun and excitement on previous activities he used to enjoy. It is as if a person is just going through the motions of life. As you can see, the signs and symptoms of depression will vary greatly from one person to another. But below are some evident symptoms that will let you determine if you have depression or a loved one who does:
• Weight changes – significant weight gain or weight loss is a sign that a person is suffering from difficult problems.
• Loss of interest in former activities – pastimes hobbies, social activities, and sex are all but forgotten. A depressed person simply doesn’t find pleasure in anything.
• Psycho-motor retardation or agitation –people feel either “keyed up” or restless for no apparent reason.
• Loss of energy – a person will generally feel physically drained even without doing any strenuous activity. Also, even simple task become exhausting to a depressed person.
• Concentration problems – depression will cause a person to lose his ability to concentrate, remember things, and make decision by himself.
• Self loathing – self-esteem issues will have to be dealt with. There will also be strong feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
• Aches and pain – depression will cause unexplained headache, diarrhoea, constipation, backache, abdominal pain, and aching joints to occur.
• Irritability – a person will be easily frustrated and irritable; it will show when he lash out at others and snap at them in anger.
Generally, people with depression will display distorted thinking because everything looks bleak. And because they have negative views about themselves, their current situation, and their future, they obsess over small problems and these are blown out of proportion. They sometimes see suicide as the only way out and that happens because they think it’s the simplest way out – it’s not, trust me.
How to help someone with depression?
One of the most notable problems with depression is the inability of the victim to admit that he has this disorder. Many people do not seek outside help until they discover that they cannot deal with it alone. There is always the fear that they will jeopardise their career, life insurance, and even their relationship with family and friends. Depression, the inability to cope with stress, and the inability to cope with life is not only a disorder of the body or the mind; it is a disorder of the whole person. This is because depression is a complex interaction between the two. Depression is not a choice that a person can make because no one wants to be depressed; this is the response of a person when he cannot cope with his current situation.
So what kind of help is available for depression ? Help can come from several people including:
Help from Professionals
• Doctors – they are medical health-care practitioners but while they can prescribe some medications for depression, they do not have the necessary training to help a person mentally or psychiatric. Doctors can usually help in mild to moderate depression.
• Psychiatrist – people who suffer from severe depression should be treated by a psychiatrist. They have a greater experience in anti-depressants and they can find one that is most suitable for you.
• Counselors – a significant number of mild depression cases can be cured by simply talking about the problem. There is a chance that talking about their feelings to a counselor can make them feel better.
• Clinical psychologist – sometimes, doctors may refer you to a clinical psychologist who will use Cognitive therapy to cure your condition. It strives to change the way you think about life.
Help from Family and Friends
A lot of people can help themselves by just talking about their problems to family and friends. A sympathetic listener can make you feel better about yourself and the simple fact that someone is there for you can make see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Help from Self-Help Groups
People with depression can be best understood by people who experienced the disorder themselves. These survivors can be found in charities and self-help groups as they strive to help other people.
It is not unusual to wake up one day and find out you are cured from depression. Just like headaches, depression can suddenly disappear spontaneously. But take note that most people will not experience spontaneous recovery.
Who gets depression?
Depressed people usually feel alone and lonely. But what they don’t know is that around 16% of Americans actually experience depression in varying degrees at one way or another throughout their lifetimes. But some segments of the population are more at risk of depression; among these include:
• Women – they are twice more likely to become depressed compared to men. These risks are associated with the hormonal changes in the body particularly during the puberty stage, the menstruation stage, pregnancy, and menopause stage.
• Men – although they are at lower risks compared to women, men are less likely to seek medical help from doctors. Instead, they will become rude and hostile to mask their depressed state. Alcohol abuse and substance abuse are common among men who are suffering from depression. A worrying aspect in men is that they are also four times more likely to commit suicide compared to women because of this condition.
• Elderly – older people usually become depressed when they lose people they care about. Also, most elderly people need to adjust to living by themselves. They also become less physically active and more likely to become ill. All these factors can contribute to their depressed state. A worrying aspect in this is that loved ones will sometimes attribute any negative changes to ageing and older people are generally unwilling to talk about their problem. As a result, elderly people fail to get help.
The precise statistics of depression is not known but it is considered to be a common disorder. Depression cuts across ethnic, economic, and racial divides in everyone around the world. No one is safe or immune from depression. Typically, depression will begin in the late 20’s but it can actually occur at any age and affect everyone from children to the elderly.
And although the exact cause of depression is not known, researchers are able to find out that some people are more prone to depression compared to others. Below is a list of characteristics they possess:
• Biological relatives who has depression
• Family members that had committed suicide
• Stressful life events
• Illness such as HIV, cancer, and Alzheimer’s
• Having “down” mood as a kid
• Alcohol or drug abuse
• Recent birth
• Being the lower socioeconomic class
• Long term use of medications for high blood pressure, birth control pills, and sleeping pills
Natural remedies for depression.
Millions of people in the United States suffer from depression in any given year. However, a lot of these victims do not seek help even though they can be cured with the right natural depression treatment. You should realise that the first step to get better is to talk with a health care professional. Depression is an illness that you should not face by yourself.
Meanwhile, depression can also be the symptom of another serious condition such as anemia and hypothyroidism. Also, if you are undergoing medications, you should not self medicate; instead, you need to consult with the doctor. Usually, you will be given antidepressants – a nastier choice to natural depression remedies – to treat this disorder but there are natural alternatives as well. Among these are:
- St. John’s Wort – this remedy has long been used to treat sadness, nervousness, worry, and poor sleeping habits. Also, studies reveal that St. John’s Wort works better than placebo and it can be effective natural antidepressant for mild and moderate depression. This remedy is available in various forms including tables, liquid extracts, and capsules.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acid – this is the type of fat necessary for normal function of the brain. Our body cannot produce omega-3 acid on its own so people should get it through their diets. Some studies have linked the low intake of omega-3 acid with depression. In countries with high fish consumption, the depression rate is around ten times lower compared to North America. You should eat cold water fish such as salmon, anchovies, and sardines because they have a high amount of this fatty acid.
- SAM-e – also known as Sadenosyl L-methionine. This chemical is found in the human body and researches believe that it increases the levels of dopamine and neurotransmitters serotonin. SAM-e is believed to be more effective than placebo and it is easily available over-the-counter in most food stores.
- Folic acid – also known as folate. This B vitamin is lacking in people suffering from depression. Usually, folate can be derived from green leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, and other fortified grains. Using birth control pills and aspirin can cause the levels of folic acid to become deficient in the body.
- 5-HTP – also known as 5-hydroextrptophan. It can be produced in the body to make neurotransmitter serotonin. Currently, there are not enough studies to prove that it can boost serotonin levels though. But if you decide to use this remedy, you should be careful not to combine it with antidepressants.
Ten Ways to Help Kids with Depression.
Children who experience depression describe this feeling as hopelessness; some kids also feel that no activity is worth their effort. They sincerely believe that they are good for nothing and that their world is a different place compared to others. But an accurate diagnosis can significantly improve the well-being of a child. If you notice any of the below symptoms, you should get help for your child right away:
• Prolonged period of feeling down for no apparent reason
• Lack of energy about everything
• Inability to complete simple tasks
• Lack of desire to do things that previously bought please
• Inability to concentrate
• Significant change in sleeping habits
• Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
• Physical aches and pain
• Interest in eating
Depressed children and teenagers are more susceptible to drug and alcohol use compared to those who aren’t depressed. This is because substance such as these can help them forget their depression for a short while. It is important to let them realise that these substances cannot help; they will just make things worse. So how can you help a child with depression?
Well, below are ten ways that will help them cope:
- Detect the signs of depression – detecting this disorder is the first step in helping a child. Once you have determined that they are actually suffering from depression, the right treatment can be recommended.
- Be there for them – let the child know that you are always there for them wherever you are. Always verbally assure them that you are there when they need help.
- Love them – children with depression feels as if they are unworthy of love. Show them that they are worthy and that you love them.
- Seek professional help – in any mental disorder, it is always recommended to get an expert involved. Depression can be fatal but with the right combination of medicine, therapy, and support, it can be cured.
- Make sure they take the prescribed medication – once medications are prescribed, parents should make sure that the child follows the dosage requirements.
- Ensure physical activity – exercise will alleviate signs and symptoms of depression
- Accept the situation – accept your child the way he is. Don’t force the child to just “snap out of it” because he can’t. Continual treatments and support may be necessary.
- Watch out for warning signs – you should closely monitor the attitude and behaviour of your child when he is suffering from depression.
- Get support – letting them join support groups may help them cope especially if they discover that other people share the same experience.
- Seek medical help when the child talks about suicide – when a child is thinking about suicide, professional intervention is essential.