What is depression?
Depression is a serious mood disorder which has a negative effect on how you feel, think and act. It is a state in which you experience overbearing feelings of sadness for continuously two weeks or more. Also, depression makes you lose interest in activities you once enjoyed and you can find it burdensome to get along with daily life as depression reduces your ability to function in a normal way.
How common is depression ?
Major depression is one of the most common mental illnesses affecting 16 million adults in the U. S, each year.
Are depression and sadness the same?
No, depression is quite different from normal sadness. All of us feel low once in a while .But such feelings of sadness come and go. They aren’t intense, don’t persist for long periods of time and they don’t affect your ability to function in a normal way . On the other hand, depression is a mental illness in which the feeling of sadness is intense and there is no let up for a much longer term . Along with that , depression decreases your ability to function in the way you would normally do.
What are the different types of depression?
There are many different types of depression. Some of these are :
In this type , you have the symptoms of depression for at least two weeks at one time. The symptoms show almost every day, for most part of the day and interfere with your ability to think, work, eat, sleep and enjoy life properly. You may experience only one such episode during your entire life or many , at different times.
In this form ,you undergo severe depression combined with psychosis which may include:
- delusions(when you start having false beliefs)
- hallucinations(when you start seeing things and hearing voices that aren’t there and others can’t see it hear )
- paranoia (when you start believing for no reason that others are trying to harm you)
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
This type of depression comes in early winter and goes during the spring or summer. Typically, you will experience it’s symptoms at the same time , every year.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
This type of depression lasts for at least two years. Within this period you may have episodes of ‘ major depression ‘ along with periods of moderate depression in between.
Bipolar Disorder or Manic Depression
You will have mood swings if you have this form of depression . Your moods will vary from extremes of high energy (mania) to intensely low energy depressive periods with symptoms of ‘ major depression ‘.
This type of depression pertains to the period after childbirth when women experience the symptoms of full blown major depression in the post delivery weeks or even months.
It is quite different from the normal baby blues which go away in a fortnight after delivery.
If you are experiencing this form of depression ,you will have feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety and exhaustion. You may also find yourself unable to perform daily care tasks for yourself and your baby.
What are the factors contributing to depression?
Research on the causes of depression is ongoing , but the following factors certainly contribute to depression :
A family history of depression increases your risk of having depression
Imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters may contribute towards depression
Natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes can put you at greater risk of depression .
Similarly, food, water and air pollution can also contribute to depression.
Psychological factors like recent stressful life events, low social support, low self esteem, perfectionism, over sensitivity to rejection and loss , contribute to depression. Being excessively dependent, pessimistic and critical of yourself can also lead to depression.
What are the symptoms of depression?
There are a large variety of symptoms of depression that can range from mild to severe. These symptoms can include :
- Remaining persistently sad and anxious
- Feelings of emptiness over a long time
- Remaining hopeless and having feelings of pessimism
- Having feelings of low self esteem ,worthlessness and hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt
- Feelings of helplessness
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Loss of energy
- Increased fatigue and exhaustion
- Difficulty in concentrating, thinking and remembering
- Making decisions
- Having proper sleep, e. g insomnia, awakening early morning or sleeping too much
- Eating too much or too little
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Back pain, headache, other body pains without any medical reasons
- Digestive disorders without medical reasons
- Anxiety, agitation, restlessness and irritability
- Slowed body movements ,speaking and thinking
- Thoughts of death and suicide
- Attempts to commit suicide
How do we treat it?
- Depression is one of the most treatable of all mental disorders . Almost all suffering patients respond well to treatment and get some relief from their symptoms.
- The first step you have to take for treatment of your depression is to visit your doctor for a proper evaluation and diagnosis .
- Your doctor will carry out an interview and a physical examination to arrive at a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan. He may also order some lab tests to rule out any medical conditions.
- Depending on the specific symptoms and their severity the treatment plan may include medication or psychotherapy or a combination of both.
- Your medication will be in the form of antidepressants
- Antidepressants take a couple of weeks or more to work
- For full benefits you may have to take them for an extended period of time . You may have to take them for a few months even after the symptoms have improved
- Antidepressants are generally not habit forming but they do have side effects which you should discuss with your health provider
- Your doctor may adjust your dose from time to time
- You should not stop taking your medications on your own
Psychotherapy or Talk Therapy
- Psychotherapy aims at helping you adjust your behavior and your way of thinking to cope with life in a better way
- It also helps you change habits that may be contributing to your condition
- Psychotherapy assists you in understanding and working through difficult relationships and situations that might be making it worse
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- This form of psychotherapy helps adjust your behavior and thinking
- It focuses on problem solving
- CBT is equally effective for you alone, for you and your spouse together or even your entire family
- It takes around 10-15 sessions of CBT to show marked improvement in the symptoms
Brain Stimulation Therapies
- Electro Convulsive Therapy(ECT) & other brain stimulation therapies are effective for severe depression where antidepressant medication has failed to draw positive response
- ECT is by far the best Brain Stimulation Therapy
- In ECT the brain receives a brief electrical stimulation under anesthesia
- ECT involves a total of 6-12 treatments spread over 2-6 weeks ,2-3 treatments a week
What should I do to help myself during treatment?
- Your treatment may take a fortnight or two to start working
- During treatment try to be as active as possible
- Try to take pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
- Mix up with family and friends
- Share with them your thoughts and your feelings
- Postpone important decisions till after completion of treatment
- Be realistic, don’t expect to recover all too suddenly
- Try to remain hopeful and optimistic
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