Do you feel sad, empty, and hopeless most of the day, nearly every day? Have you lost interest or pleasure in your hobbies or being with friends and family? Are you having trouble sleeping, eating, and functioning? If you have felt this way for at least 2 weeks, you may have depression. Everyone occasionally feels sad, for example at the death of a loved one. But these feelings usually pass within a couple of days. When a person has depression, it interferes with his or her daily life and routine.
Depression can be very different in different people or in the same person over time. It causes pain for the person who has it and for those who care about him or her. It is a common but serious illness. Treatment can help those with even the most severe depression get better. The most typical feature of depression is that it affects our way of thinking. About 20 percent of the population will experience a depression requiring treatment at some time during their life.
What is depression?
Depression is—also called “clinical depression” or a “depressive disorder”—is a mood disorder. Depression is a psychological disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how one feels, thinks and behaves and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. One may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities and may feel as if life isn’t worth living.
Defined by WHO
(WHO, 2012) it is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease and affects people in all communities across the world. Today, depression is estimated to affect 300 million people. The World Mental Health Survey conducted in 17 countries found that on average about 1 in 20 people reported having an episode of depression in the previous year.
Depressive disorders often start at a young age; they reduce people’s functioning and often are recurring. For these reasons, it is the leading cause of disability worldwide in terms of total years lost due to disability. Close to 800000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 years old. The demand for curbing depression and other mental health conditions is on the rise globally. A recent World Health Assembly called on the World Health Organization and its member states to take action in this direction.
Is depression an emotion or feeling?
It appears that most depression involves the numbing of emotions, especially grief, fear, anger, and shame. It occurs when these emotions loop back on themselves, having feelings about feelings, sometimes without limit.
Causes of depression
Depression does not have a single cause. It can be triggered, or it may occur spontaneously without being associated with a life crisis, physical illness or another risk. Scientists believe several factors contribute to causing depression. Any of these factors alone or in combination can bring about the specific changes in brain chemistry that lead to the many symptoms of depression.
- Trauma: When people experience trauma at an early age, it can cause long-term changes in how their brains respond to fear and stress. These brain changes may explain why people who have a history of childhood trauma are more likely to experience depression.
- Genetics: Mood disorders and risk of suicide tend to run in families, but genetic inheritance is only one factor.
- Life circumstances: Marital status, financial standing and where a person lives have an effect on whether a person develops depression, but it can be a case of “the chicken or the egg.”
- Brain structure: Imaging studies have shown that the frontal lobe of the brain becomes less active when a person is depressed. It is also associated with changes in how the pituitary gland and hypothalamus respond to hormone stimulation.
- Other medical conditions: People who have a history of sleep disturbances, medical illness, chronic pain, anxiety, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to develop depression.
- Drug and alcohol abuse: Approximately 30% of people with substance abuse problems also have depression.
Signs and symptoms
Just like with any mental illness, people with depression experience symptoms differently. But for most people, it changes how they function day-to-day. Common symptoms include:
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness: In a brief – nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
- Loss of interest in daily activities: You don’t care anymore about former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
- Appetite or weight changes: Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
- Sleep changes: Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping.
- Anger or irritability: Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
- Loss of energy: Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
- Self-loathing: Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
- Reckless behavior: You engage in escapist behaviors such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
- Concentration problems: Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
- Unexplained aches and pains: An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
Barriers to effective care of depression
Although there are known, effective treatment for depression, fewer than half of those affected in the world (in many countries, fewer than 10%) receive such treatment. There are barriers to effective care which include
Lack of resources
Lack of trained health-care providers
Social stigma associated with mental disorders.
Depression is a mood disorder which makes a person feels constantly sad or not interested. WHO ranks it as the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide and projects that by 2020, it will be the second leading cause. The study, published in the BMC Medicine journal, is based on interviews of more than 89,000 people in 18 different countries. One in seven people (15 percent) in high-income countries is likely to get depression over their lifetime, compared with one in nine (11 percent) in middle and low-income countries, the study says.
Depression is characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration, besides feeling depressed. There are different symptoms of identifying like self-loathing, hopelessness, lack of energy, weight changes and many more. But fortunately, depression is a treatable mental disorder, which can be treated by the psychologist. A combination of medication and psychotherapy may be used to help a depressed person.
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