Major depressive disorder, sometimes known as depression, is a serious medical condition that frequently affects people’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Thankfully, it is also curable. Sadness and/or a loss of interest in past interests are symptoms of depression. It can impair your ability to perform at work and at home and cause a number of mental and physical issues.
From moderate to severe, depression symptoms might include:
- A sense of sadness or depression.
- A decline in enjoyment or interest in activities.
- Weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting due to changes in appetite.
- Lack of sleep or excessive sleep.
- Energy loss or increased fatigue.
- An increase in pointless movement (such as hand-wringing, pacing, or an inability to sit still) or slower speech or movement (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others)
- Feeling guilty or unworthy.
- Thinking, concentration, or decision-making challenges.
- Thoughts of suicide or death.
For a diagnosis of depression, symptoms must persist for at least two weeks and must indicate a change from your pre-existing level of functioning.
Additionally, certain medical diseases (such as thyroid issues, brain tumors, or vitamin deficiencies) can mirror the symptoms of depression, so it’s crucial to screen out any underlying medical conditions.
In any given year, depression is thought to afflict one in 15 adults (6.7%). In addition, 16.6% of the population will experience depression at some point in their lives. While depression can strike at any time, it typically initially manifests itself around late adolescence or the middle of the 20s. Depression is more common in women than in males. According to some research, one-third of women will go through a significant depressive episode at some point in their lives. When first-degree relatives (parents, children, or siblings) develop depression, there is a high degree of heritability (about 40%).
Sadness, grief, or bereavement are not the same as depression.
Losing a job, losing a loved one, or ending a relationship are all trying events for a person to go through. It is common for people to experience melancholy or grief in response to such circumstances. Those who have experienced loss frequently may label themselves as “depressed.”
But being depressed is not the same as being sad. The grieving process is normal, particular to each person, and shares some characteristics with depression. Depression and bereavement both have the potential to cause extreme sadness and withdrawal from daily activities. In addition, they differ in several key ways:
- When someone is grieving, unpleasant emotions frequently come in waves and are blended with pleasant recollections of the deceased. For the majority of two weeks during a major depressive episode, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are lowered.
- In grief, self-esteem is usually maintained. In major depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common.
- When contemplating or fantasizing about “joining” the deceased loved one, ideas of death may come to mind. Because of feelings of worthlessness, deservingness, or inability to handle the pain of despair, thoughts of suicide are common in serious depression.
For some people, grief and depression can coexist. Losing a loved one, losing their job, becoming the victim of physical violence, or experiencing a significant tragedy can all cause despair. When depression co-exists with grief, the grief is more severe and lasts longer than grief alone.
It’s crucial to distinguish between grieving and depression because doing so can help people get the support, care, and treatment they require.
Depression risk factors.
Even those who appear to lead relatively ideal lives might suffer from depression. The following things may contribute to depression:
- Biochemistry: Variations in a few chemicals in the brain may be a factor in the manifestations of depression.
- Depression may run in families due to genetics. For instance, if one identical twin develops depression, there is a 70% probability that the other would also get the condition at some point in life.
- Personality: It seems that those who have low self-esteem, are easily stressed out, or are usually gloomy are more prone to suffer from depression.
- Factors related to the environment: Prolonged exposure to violence, abuse, neglect, or poverty may make some persons more susceptible to depression.
How can one treat depression?
One of the most manageable mental illnesses is depression. Eventually, between 80% and 90% of depressed individuals respond well to therapy. Almost all patients have some symptom alleviation.
Before making a diagnosis or starting therapy, a medical expert should carry out a thorough diagnostic evaluation that includes a physical exam and an interview. In rare instances, a blood test may be performed to ensure that a medical condition like a thyroid issue or a vitamin deficit is not the cause of the depression (reversing the medical cause would alleviate the depression-like symptoms). To make a diagnosis and determine a course of action, the evaluation will pinpoint particular symptoms, look into medical family histories, and consider cultural and environmental factors.
An individual’s brain chemistry may contribute to their depression and may influence how they are treated. Antidepressants may therefore be prescribed to help alter one’s brain chemistry. These drugs are not tranquilizers, sedatives, or “uppers.” They do not become ingrained.
Antidepressant drugs typically don’t have any stimulating effects on persons who aren’t depressed. The full effects of antidepressants may not become apparent for two to three months after starting treatment, however they may start to show some improvement after a week or two. After several weeks, if the patient shows little to no improvement, the psychiatrist may adjust the dosage, add another antidepressant, or do both. Other psychotropic medicines may be beneficial in some circumstances. If a drug does not function as expected or if you suffer any negative effects, you should inform your doctor right once.
After symptoms have improved, psychiatrists typically advise patients to take their medicine for another six months or more. For some individuals at high risk, longer-term maintenance therapy may be advised to reduce the risk of subsequent episodes.
For the treatment of mild depression, psychotherapy, sometimes known as “talk therapy,” is occasionally used alone; it is frequently combined with antidepressants. It has been discovered that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is successful in treating depression. CBT is a type of therapy that concentrates on fixing problems in the here and now. A person can change their thoughts and behaviors to respond to difficulties in a more positive way by using CTB to identify distorted or negative thinking.
Psychotherapy may simply involve the patient, but it may also involve others. Therapy for families or couples, for instance, can assist in addressing problems within these tight bonds. In a safe environment, group therapy brings people with related disorders together, and it can help the participant understand how others handle similar circumstances.
Treatment can take a few weeks or much longer depending on how severe the depression is, but in many situations, a noticeable improvement can be shown within 10 to 15 sessions.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Patients with severe major depression who have not responded to conventional therapies have traditionally been the target population for the medical procedure known as ECT. While the patient is unconscious, the brain is briefly stimulated electrically. ECT is normally administered to a patient twice to three times per week for a total of six to twelve sessions. A team of skilled medical experts, including a psychiatrist, an anesthesiologist, and a nurse or physician assistant, typically manages it. Since the 1940s, ECT has been utilized, and decades of research have resulted in significant advancements and the acceptance of its efficacy as a mainstream therapy rather than a “last resort.”
Self-help and Coping.
People can take a variety of actions to assist lessen the symptoms of depression. Regular exercise helps many people feel better about themselves and elevates mood. A good diet, regular quality sleep, and avoiding alcohol (a depressive) can all help lessen the symptoms of depression.
There is treatment for depression, which is a serious condition. The vast majority of depressed persons will recover with the right diagnosis and care. Consult your family doctor or a psychiatrist as soon as possible if you’re showing signs of depression. Talk about your worries and ask for a thorough analysis. Your mental health needs are being addressed in this way.
- Pregnancy depression (previously postpartum depression)
- Winter depression (Also called seasonal affective disorder)
- Bipolar illnesses.
- Chronic depression (formerly known as dysthymia) (description below)
- Dysphoria prior to menstruation (description below)
- Disorder of disruptive mood dysregulation (description below)
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) now includes PMDD. A week or so prior to the start of her period, a woman with PMDD has acute depression, irritability, and tension symptoms.
Swings in mood, irritation or rage, depression, and pronounced anxiety or tension are common symptoms. Other symptoms could be a loss of interest in routine activities, trouble focusing, lack of energy or easy tiredness, changes in appetite with particular food cravings, difficulty sleeping or excessive napping, or a feeling of being overpowered or out of control. Breast soreness or swelling, joint or muscle pain, a feeling of “bloating,” or weight gain are examples of physical symptoms.
A week to ten days before to the start of menstruation, these symptoms appear, and they either get better or go away around the time menses start. Significant distress and difficulties with daily tasks or social interactions are caused by the symptoms.
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.
The ailment known as disruptive mood dysregulation disorder affects children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 18. It entails significant chronic irritation that frequently and severely loses control of one’s temper. Verbal or physical aggressiveness toward persons or property may be involved in the temper outbursts. These outbursts are wildly out of character for the circumstance and don’t match the child’s developmental stage. They must be frequent (often three or more times each week), and they usually result from irritation. The child’s mood is consistently irritable or angry for the majority of the day, almost every day, in between the outbursts. Others, such as parents, teachers, and peers, are aware of this emotion.
Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder must first manifest before the age of ten, and symptoms must last for at least a year in at least two contexts (such as at home, school, and among peers). Males experience disruptive mood dysregulation disorder substantially more frequently than females do. Other disorders include major depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, anxiety, and behavioral disorders may coexist with it.
Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder can significantly affect both the family and the child’s capacity to function. Outbursts of anger and chronic, extreme irritation can interfere with family life, make it difficult for a child or young person to find or maintain friends, and cause issues at school.
Psychotherapy (also known as cognitive behavior therapy) and/or medicines are frequently used in treatment.
Persistent Depressive Disorder.
For at least two years, a person with persistent depressive illness, also known as dysthymic disorder, feels down most of the day. The mood must last for at least a year and might be either irritated or melancholy in children and adolescents.
Symptoms, in addition to a depressed mood, include:
- Overeating or having a poor appetite
- Hypersomnia or insomnia
- Lack of vigor or weariness
- a low sense of self
- Having trouble focusing or making judgments
- a sense of helplessness
An estimated 0.5% of adults in the United States suffer with persistent depressive illness each year, which frequently starts in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. People who have persistent depressive disorder frequently describe their mood as melancholy or depressed. Because these symptoms have been a regular part of the person’s life, they could choose not to seek help because they believe “I’ve always been this way.”
Significant anxiety or difficulty is brought on by the symptoms at work, in social situations, or in other crucial areas of functioning. Although the impacts of persistent depressive disorder on employment, interpersonal connections, and daily living can vary greatly, they can be comparable to or even higher than those of major depressive disorder.
A severe depressive episode may occur before the development of persistent depressive disorder, but it can also happen after a previous diagnosis of persistent depression disorder and be overlaid on it.