What Is It?
Depression is a physiological condition that causes feelings of sadness, social anxiety, low self-esteem, helplessness, and hopelessness. It is common for people who are depressed to lose interest in many important aspects of life including work, school, friendships, family, sex, and social relationships.
You might be depressed without realizing it. You might feel weak and sick without realizing that you are depressed. You may have visited many doctors with little success of finding an explanation for your symptoms.
You might not feel sad, people might not believe you, and you may be feeling lost. No matter the case, it is important that you keep looking for answers: depression is a real illness that requires treatment, medication, and therapy for a successful recovery.
Depression can be difficult to understand and discuss, especially with friends and family. You might worry about judgment from your peers and whether society will treat you differently. Your condition might cause you to feel lost or isolated. Because of your fears and sense of being alone, you might not know how to confront and overcome the symptoms of your specific condition.
In reality, depression is common and affects millions of people. Having depression does not mean that you are suicidal, and the condition did not occur as a result of your own faults. It's not "all in your head." You are not alone, and your doctor, family, and friends are able to provide the support system that you need.
There are five categories of depression:
- Melancholic depression is characterized by a loss of pleasure, excessive weight loss, or excessive guilt.
- Atypical depression creates symptoms of mood reactivity, weight gain, and a need for excessive sleep.
- Catatonic depression is a rare and severe form of depression involving disturbances and violent behavior.
- Postpartum depression commonly occurs among new mothers.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs during particular seasons. Most SAD patients feel depressed in the autumn and winter when the weather is cold.
Symptoms & Warning Signs
Depression is a very personal illness, so symptoms might be different from person to person. You might feel a sense of dejection for an extended time period that ranges from a few days to years. For most people, the onset of depression is gradual: the condition will begin subtly and then worsen over time.
Common symptoms include feelings of anxiety, insomnia, unusual vivid dreams, excessive fatigue, loss of confidence, panic attacks, diminished self-worth, feelings of hopelessness, appetite loss, overeating, decreased sex drive, and excessive drinking. Physical symptoms include back pain, headaches, and body aches. It is common for people to avoid seeking medical attention until the symptoms become unbearable or severe.
Causes & Risk Factors
All kinds of people of all ages are at risk for depression. Many people who are elderly experience depression, and depression is common for people who are dealing with financial, health, or family problems.
For the most part, the causes of depression are unclear. It is believed that a variety of factors cause people to become depressed. No matter the case, it is never your fault.
Research suggests that depression results from physical conditions involving the nerves and brains. Low levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine can cause symptoms of fatigue and depression. Irregular sleep patterns, drugs, and alcohol can also cause depression.
Prevention & Treatment
Treatment includes a combination of medications called antidepressants and counseling sessions. A general practitioner, psychiatrist, or clinic psychologist can prescribe the right treatment and medication. Hospitalization is necessary for people who are at an immediate risk to themselves or others.
For the most part, treatments are common, safe, and effective. The prognosis is positive, since most people make a successful and complete recovery.
Tests & Diagnosis
In many situations, depression can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms may point to another condition. There are no laboratory tests or physical exams available to diagnose the condition. Sometimes, a person's family or friends need to point out that he or she seems depressed.
If you feel depressed, you should consult a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible. You need to take your depression seriously, especially if you have thoughts of suicide. These thoughts are wrong, dangerous, and delusional. An early diagnosis and prompt treatment can help you improve the quality of your life immediately. You can feel happy again in no time.