What is depression?
Depression is a serious mental disorder that affects not only our mind but also the body. People who suffer from depression experience a range of problems including chronic fatigue, deconcentration or eating and sleeping disorders.
Despite the fact that depression has been quite common among people nowadays, it is still relatively hard to diagnose it since its symptoms vary from person to person.
The causes of depression may also be diverse. Some psychologists talk about genetic vulnerability, whereas the others advocate the theory of external factors. All in all, the complexity of the nature of depression makes it hard to establish one clear viewpoint.
Generally, people with low self-esteem, hardened pessimists or over-ambitious perfectionists are more prone to depression. The ability to cope with problems and difficulties is also extremely important. People who find it hard to distance themselves from everyday troubles are more likely to grow depressed.
Environmental factors play an important role as well. We all crave for social approval and the fear of social exclusion may trigger depressive thinking.
When it comes to antidepressant treatment, psychotherapy and medication are two major ways. However, the effects again may vary. Different people respond differently to certain therapy and personal factors like sex, body mass or smoking habit can influence the treatment’s effects. To avoid possible side effects, it is important to rely on a professional physician.
Are there different types of depression?
The are several types of depression and they are classified by symptoms and causes. The most common types are:
Also called “clinical depression,” it is characterized by the feeling of chronic melancholy, tiredness, suicidal tendencies. It is the most serious type of depression and requires professional treatment.
Although it refers to mild or moderate level, it is exceptionally resistant to therapy. Some patients with dysthymic disorder may develop major depression.
Involves uncontrollable mood swings that can last for hours, days or even months. During these periods, the patient’s mood can change from euphoria to hysteria.
Also known as “the baby blues.” It is a natural reaction to hormonal shifts. Young mothers feel apprehensive about the new situation and can react very emotionally. They often cry with no reason, find it hard to take care of a newborn baby, cannot eat or sleep. Some extreme cases include even children murders.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
Probably the most common type of depression. Most women experience premenstrual mood swings, irritability, anxiety and food cravings. However, the symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder are much more severe than those of normal premenstrual syndrome.
Seasonal affective disorder
People who suffer from this kind of depression experience feeling of melancholy and weariness during winter months only. As soon as the sunny period returns, they feel better again and are energetic and joyful.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
Depression is a word commonly used in today’s world to describe our negative attitude and temporal lack of vivacity. But from the medical perspective depression is a serious mood disorder that needs medical treatment. Signs of depression may be exhibited in various ways, sometimes slightly noticeable, ranging from lasting feelings of sadness and hopelessness to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy. The most severe consequences of depression are thoughts of hopelessness, dejection, death or suicide and suicide attempts.
Signs of depression which is serious, in contrast with seasonal attitude disorder, are characterized by a combination of symptoms that last for at least two weeks in a row, including sad or irritable mood that interfere with the person’s ability to perform the basic activities such as go to work, sleep, eat and enjoy the activities they used to find enjoyable. Difficulties in sleeping or eating can take the form of excessive or insufficient of either behavior, as the signs of depression mean any type of untypical overreaction. These symptoms of depression can as well occur once, twice, or several times in a lifetime.
It is important to know that not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience a few symptoms and some many symptoms to a certain degree. The severity of signs of depression also varies with individuals. The less severe symptoms that precede the more serious ones are called warning signs. When we observe them in our behaviour or in someone we know, we ought not to ignore them, as they will probably augment with time.
If we were to enlist the particular symptoms, they would include: persistently sad, anxious, angry, irritable, or “empty” mood, feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, worthlessness, restlessness, irritability, helplessness, or excessive guilt. Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and pleasurable activities, leading to social isolation by avoiding interactions with family or friends will therefore be the natural consequence of depression. The depressed person will often suffer from insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping, decreased appetite or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain on the other hand. The last signs of depression worth mentioning will manifest in problems with concentration and remembering, constant distractions or problems with decision making.
Depression in women
As the research shows, women are far more prone to get depressed than men. There are several reasons for that.
First of all, women have to cope with menstrual cycles which are connected with mood changes. Premenstrual anxiety, nervousness and irritability caused by hormonal shifts seriously affect women’s mental well-being.
Another important factor is the possible postpartum depression. About 10 to 15% of women experience this state after giving birth. Postpartum depression requires sudden treatment since it may lead to children murders or even suicide.
Probably one of the most stressful situations women have to cope with is the entire issue of childbearing an upbringing. Unwanted pregnancy, infertility, miscarriage or stillbirths are traumatic experiences that can contribute to the development of depression. The problem grows even bigger if these women have no opportunity to receive professional help.
Menopause is another factor. It is a complete breakthrough in a woman’s life. She suddenly realizes that her beauty fades, she is not able to produce anymore and that she simply grows old. It can seriously shake her confidence and self esteem.
Taking women’s social roles into consideration, one can notice today’s women’s quest for perfection. They struggle to reconcile the role of a wife, housewife, mother, businesswoman, etc. They want their family to be perfect, their job to be done perfect and their body to look perfect. Such attitude can also lead to depression since it is impossible to be the best in all areas of life.
Depression in men
Despite the fact that depression is mostly associated with women’s psychological disorders, a considerable number of men also suffer from this serious illness.
What is important is the fact that relatively few men are diagnosed with depression. It is probably because of the fact that men are not likely to talk about their problems and fears since they are supposed to be strong and tough.
The symptoms of depression in men are quite similar to those in women, but very often are hard to recognize. Whereas women tend to display the feelings of worthlessness, fatigue, apathy etc., men are likely to become hostile, rude and aggressive.
Depressed men often have problems with their manhood, both in psychological and physical sense. However, they have great difficulty admitting it. They feel lifeless, worthless, cannot enjoy anything. At work, they usually cannot concentrate, complain about trivia, start to lose control over their duties, make constant mistakes or cannot focus on the job in hand.
When it comes to causes of depression in men, they are also similar to those in women. Even though men do not experience postpartum depression directly, some of them had been diagnosed with this kind of depression after they became fathers. Many women after childbirth completely shift their focus to the child and neglect their husbands. This can lead to the feeling of uselessness and, as a result, depressive thoughts.
Another major cause is the problem of unemployment. Most men are family’s only providers so job loss can seriously affect a man’s psyche.
Growing old and retirement is another factor. Men, as well as women, find it hard to admit that they are not so strong, healthy and handsome that they used to be. The loss of psychical strength and good mental condition can also be very frustrating.
What causes depression?
The causes of depression are quite hard to point out since they are not clear-cut. Some psychologists believe that a tendency to get depressed may be inherited, whereas the others advocate the theory of external factors, such as troubled childhood, divorce, job loss, chronic stress, etc.
As the research shows, inborn character traits may also play a significant role in developing depression. People with low self-esteem and born pessimists are far more likely to get depressed.
Environmental factors, such as social relations, family affairs, work issues also have a huge impact.
What is surprising, not only traumatic experiences may lead to depression. Events such as graduation, getting married or having a child may also trigger depressive thinking.
Serious illnesses, including fatal diseases like cancer, can have a detrimental impact on one’s mental well-being and contribute to depression.
When it comes to children, many of them become depressed after being excluded from the peer group or after changing school. Parents’ divorce or home abuse are also important factors.
Elderly people, despite of their decreasing mental and physical health, are not very prone to get depressed. They usually feel satisfied with their lives, proud of their children and grandchildren and have a lot of free time for themselves. However, some of them may develop depression as a side effect of other illnesses or medication.
What causes depression in women is mainly stress connected with childbearing and upbringing. Hormonal disorders or serious losses are also significant. When it comes to men, most of them develop depression after being dismissed from job, after divorce or even after become a father.
How to treat depression?
Each depressed person needs professional help and individual approach. One possible way of treatment is psychotherapy. Counselling, one of the elements of psychotherapy, aims at decreasing feelings of anxiety, fear and hopelessness. The second step, cognitive therapy, helps to evaluate problems and fight them. The patient is given advise how to cope with major and minor issues and encouraged to think positive. The last, problem solving therapy is to rebuild confidence, increase coping skills and work on better stress management.
Every individual has his or her own pace so the length of psychotherapy can vary from person to person. What is more, people with mild or moderate depression require less sessions that those with severe form of disorder.
Considering medication, antidepressants are probably the most common way of treatment. However, one should notice that antidepressant pills only provide temporary help. They only relieve the symptoms, not cure, that is why they complement the psychotherapy.
Apart from psychotherapy, some alternative methods of depression treatment have appeared recently. Some of them include bright light therapy, acupuncture, meditation or music therapy. Some scientist claim that physical exercise and healthy diet are also very helpful in depression treatment. Regular workout assures high level of so called “hormones of happiness” (serotonin and endorphin) that make one feel better. All kinds of outdoor sports can also do wonders for the mental health. Jogging in the green, sunny parks or skiing in the sunlit mountains provide direct contact with nature and help to unwind and relax.
How to help someone with depression?
Providing help for the depressed may be unusually difficult since they very often avoid admitting that they are ill and reject all forms of help. Taking care of a depressed person requires enormous patience and grit.
First of all, it is extremely important to learn something about the nature of the illness in order to approach it. You have to get to know how to talk to the depressed person and how to provide support. The best you can do is to be a loving and compassionate listener.
First, try to just listen to his or her. Do not give advice, do not try to cheer his or her up by telling: “hey man! Everything’s gonna be alright!” It is crucial to show that you are always there for him or her. Avoid saying that he or she exaggerates problems or flies off the handle.
If it is possible, try to encourage the depressed person to seek professional help. However, again you may encounter problems. Most people are convinced that their situation is helpless, so they think that the therapy will also prove pointless. Try to offer your help in various forms. Invite his or her to a concert, take him or her for a trip or to the cinema. Try to remind what they used to do and where they used to go before growing depressed and take them to those places.
Even if it is hard to accept, almost every depressed person has suicidal thoughts. That is why it is so important to be sensitive to all reactions that may indicate such tendencies. Self-destructive attempts, showing interest in death matters, self hatred should alarm you.