Mental Disorder : Depression

Introduction
Life is very colourful, full of happiness and sorrow. But there are times when one feels very low for more than a week. The 'down' feeling creates difficulty in the normal functioning in terms of work, other activities and relationships.

The down type of feeling that all people experience from time to time is different from being clinically depressed. Occasional feelings of sadness are a normal part of life. People commonly mistake it for depression. Clinically, in depression such feelings are out of proportion to any external causes.
Anyone can experience clinical depression, regardless of age, gender, race, creed or income. Research shows women are usually more vulnerable to depression than men.

 

Symptoms
Depressed people generally have a dejected, discouraged and sad appearance. However, sadness may not always be the dominant feeling. Depression can also be experienced as a numb or empty feeling, or perhaps no awareness of feeling at all.

Depressed individuals experience high level of anxiety and low self-confidence. They tend to loose interest in almost every activity. And they are unable to feel pleasure about anything. It is important to note that the severity of symptoms varies with individuals.

Symptoms of Depression includes:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or empty feeling
  • Feelings of helplessness, worthlessness and guilt with thoughts of death or suicide
  • Feelings of pessimism, restlessness and irritability
  • Loss of interest and inability to seek pleasure in activities that once gave happiness
  • Insomnia or oversleeping.
  • Weight gain or weight loss as a result of increased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Feel fatigued every time.
  • Difficulty in concentrating and making decisions
  • Physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment like: digestive disorders, headaches and chronic pain

 

Causes
It has been observed that the symptoms of depression are the result of an alteration in brain chemistry. This alteration is similar to temporary, normal variations in brain chemistry, which can be triggered by illness, stress, frustration, or grief. But if the alteration continues, it produces depressive symptoms and through those symptoms, the affected person experiences enormous new stresses. However, if the alteration is profound enough, it may even cause suicidal impulses in the person.

Studies show that depression runs in families. This clearly indicates that a biological vulnerability can be inherited.

Additional factors, like stressful environmental factors are also responsible in its onset. Psychological makeup also plays an important role in vulnerability to depression. People having low self-esteem, who consistently view themselves and the world with pessimism, or who are readily overwhelmed by stress are prone to depression. Certain medications as well as some medical conditions can also cause symptoms of depression.

Moreover, chronic illness, difficult relationships, death of a loved one, financial problems, or any unwelcome change in life can also trigger depression. Often, a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors is involved in the onset of a depressive disorder.

 

Treatment
The first step to getting appropriate treatment is a complete physical and psychological evaluation. This will determine whether the individual has depression. Since certain medications as well as some medical conditions can cause symptoms of depression, the physician should rule out these possibilities through examination, interview and lab tests.

Diagnostic evaluation also includes a complete history of the patient's symptoms. The physician records when the depressive episode started, how long it lasted and how severe it was. Also it is important to know whether a depressive episode had occurred before. The physician should also know if other family members have had a depressive illness.

The choice of treatment depends on the outcome of the evaluation. Usually people experiencing depression, find relief with a variety of antidepressant medication. Psychotherapies are also used to treat depressive disorders. Some people do well with psychotherapy, some with antidepressants. Some do best with a combined treatment. Where medication helps to gain quick symptom relief, psychotherapy helps to learn effective ways to cope with life's problems.

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