Updated: Friday, 08 Feb 2013, 3:57 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 27 Dec 2012, 11:00 AM EST
We’ve all seen the commercials on television – several vignettes showing individuals looking sad, tired, and unresponsive to mates, children or pets with a voiceover asking if you, too, are “not yourself;” if you are feeling listless and unhappy. We all feel sad sometimes and even go through periods of grief and have feelings of failure and disappointment. But that is not depression. Depression – even in its mildest form – is more than an occasional period of sadness.
What is Depression?
Clinical depression is a serious medical illness. It involves disturbances in mood, concentration, activity level, interests, appetite, social behavior and physical health.
People who are depressed have trouble with daily life for weeks at a time. Depression is a mental illness that needs to be treated. Although depression is treatable, oftentimes it is a lifelong condition with periods of wellness alternating with depressive recurrences. Depression is common. It affects nearly one in ten adults each year – and nearly twice as many women as men. It also can be seen in children and more commonly, teenagers after puberty.
Causes of Depression
Depression does not have a single cause. Several factors or a combination of factors may contribute to depression.
• Genetics: People with a biological (family) history of depression may be more likely to develop it than those whose families do not.
• Brain chemistry: People with depression are thought to have different brain chemistry than those without the illness.
• Attitude: People with a pessimistic outlook on life and low self-esteem who are easily overwhelmed by stress are more likely to develop depression.
• Life Situations: Difficult life events or traumas such as emotional, physical, sexual or verbal abuse; continuous exposure to violence; financial problems or poverty; inappropriate or unclear expectations; maternal separation; family addiction; death of a loved one; neglect; divorce; illness; or racism may all contribute to depression.
• Postpartum: Depression may be associated with the delivery of a child. It is caused by changes in hormones and can run in families. It is far different from “baby blues” both by its duration and debilitating effects.
Symptoms of Depression
You may be depressed if you have at least five of these symptoms occurring nearly every day for at least two weeks:
• Feeling sad or empty
• Having little interest or pleasure in doing things
• Experiencing a change in appetite with weight loss or weight gain
• Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
• Being tired, fatigued and having no energy
• Feeling worthless or guilty that you have let yourself or your family down
• Moving slowly or the opposite – being overly fidgety and restless
• Having difficulty thinking or concentrating on things such as reading the newspaper or watching TV
• Letting personal hygiene go – not bathing or not dressing well
• Recurring thoughts that you’d be better off dead or of hurting yourself
Treatment of Depression
As debilitating as depression can be, it is a highly treatable disease. The vast majority of those who suffer from it can be effectively treated and return to a normal life, doing all of their regular activities free from the crippling effects of the disease. There are many ways to treat depression and the type that is chosen depends on the individual, the severity of the depression, and how well a person responds to the treatment.
Antidepressant medication works well for many, however it can take two to four weeks before the medication starts to work and six to 12 weeks before an individual sees the full effect of antidepressants. Medical research has demonstrated imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine that occur in depression and antidepressants can address these.
Psychotherapy – the “talking” therapy – is also an effective tool in treating depression and can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). These types of therapy help by teaching a depressed individual different ways of thinking and behaving and changing habits that may contribute to depression. Specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy helps to change the negative thinking and behavior associated with depression while also teaching people how to unlearn the specific behaviors that contribute to their depression. Oftentimes, changing one’s behavior can lead to an improvement in thoughts and mood.
Interpersonal therapy focuses on improving individual relationships that may contribute to a person’s depression. In this therapy patients learn to evaluate the way they interact with others – peers and family members – and become more aware of their own isolation and difficulties in getting along with or understanding other people in their lives.
For more information on depression and treatment options visit www.pinerest.org .