Clinical depression is a mood disorder; it is common and severe. Depression is more than just feeling sad or having a low mood. It affects your physical and mental health. Feelings of depression are felt intensely for weeks, months or even years.
Statistics show that depression affects an estimated 1 in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year and 1 in 6 people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression can be experienced at any time but on the average, it first appears during late teens to mid-twenties.
Studies show that women are more likely to experience depression as compared to men and that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime. Depression and grief are two different things, however grief may lead to depression if not dealt with properly.
With grief, sad emotions come in waves but in depression, these feelings are intense for about two weeks and more. Self-esteem is usually maintained in grief but in depression worthlessness and self-loathing are common. Distinguishing these two is important to help a person get the necessary help and treatment they need.
Major Risk Factors For Depression
Depression can affect everyone, no one is an exception. However, there are several factors that play a role in depression.
- Biochemistry – the differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to the symptoms of depression.
- Genetics – depression can be familial.
- Personality – people who are easily overwhelmed with stress, have a low self-esteem or are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
- Environmental factors – exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty can make someone more susceptible to depression.
What Are The Signs and Symptoms Of Depression?
The signs and symptoms of depression are based on a symptom criteria for major depressive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. They are;
- Depressed mood.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities which is known as Anhedonia.
- Significant weight or appetite disturbance.
- Loss of energy or fatigue.
- Sleep disturbance.
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation – speeding or slowing of muscle movement.
- Low self-esteem.
- Diminished ability to think, concentrate and make decisions.
- Recurrent thoughts of death, dying or suicide.
- Longstanding interpersonal rejection ideation – thinking others would be better off without me
Diagnosis of Depression
A diagnosis of depression is made based on the history and symptoms of the patient. The symptoms must be based on the DMS-5 criteria stated above. There must be an occurrence of one or more major depressive episodes. The episode must:
- Be at least two weeks long.
- Cause significant distress or severely impact social, occupational or other important areas of life.
- Not be precipitated by drug use.
- Not meet the criteria for another mental disorder like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
- Not be better explained by bereavement.
Major depressive disorder can be mild, moderate or severe. When it continues for more than two years it is termed, chronic depression.
How Depression Can Be Treated
Depression is treatable and about 80 to 90 percent of people eventually respond well to treatment, according to studies. Medications such as antidepressants are given to modify brain chemistry which may be a contributing factor of depression. These drugs may produce some improvement within the first week or two, however, full benefits may not be seen for two to three months.
Even after symptoms have improved, doctors recommend that patients continue taking the medications for six or more months. It is thought to decrease the risk of future episodes for certain people at high risk.
Psychotherapy which is also known as ‘talk therapy’ is sometimes used alone for the treatment of mild depression. For moderate and severe, psychotherapy is combined with the use of antidepressants. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been seen to be very effective. It is focused on the present and problem solving.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is commonly used for patients with severe major depression or bipolar disorder who have not responded to other treatments. It involves a brief electrical stimulation of the brain while under anesthesia.
Depression is a very serious mental health condition and if not dealt with can lead to suicide.
Anyone suffering from depression should seek for help immediately. Although it is very serious, it is very easy to treat.