There’s a big difference between feeling a little sad and having depression. In fact, we are made to have all sorts of emotions ranging from joy to sadness.
They are a completely natural part of life. But they should not be our “normal” state.
So if someone feels down for more than a few days, it could be because they have depression. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is a mental disorder affecting more than 264 million people worldwide.
Depression is a real illness with debilitating symptoms. Anyone suffering from this condition needs professional help to overcome it.
What are the symptoms of depression?
- Having little or no motivation or energy.
- Irritability and intolerance.
- Continual low mood or sadness. Feeling tearful.
- Low self-esteem, difficulty in making decisions.
- Low/no sex drive.
- No appetite and/or weight changes.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Not enjoying life.
- Feeling anxious and/or guilt-ridden.
- Moving or speaking unusually slowly.
- Neglecting friends, family and/or interests.
- Having suicidal thoughts.
The causes of depression are not completely understood.
But it’s believed there are several factors, including that someone may be more vulnerable to depression due to certain personality traits.
These are such as low self-esteem or being excessively self-critical. This could be because of genes and/or family habits they’ve been taught – for instance, how to react to certain things in life. Many families will habitually focus on the negative, what they lack and worst-case scenarios. This runs from generation to generation.
A traumatic experience in early life is considered to be another major factor in causing depression. This is such as abuse or the death of a parent.
For others, it’s something unwelcome in their present-day life that seems to be behind their depression. This includes redundancy, a relationship breakdown, serious illness or bereavement. It could be a combination of these.
Some studies have discovered people are also more likely to get depression as they get older. Other research points to a poor diet playing its part.
Some women are vulnerable to depression after pregnancy. Other factors include being isolated, using drugs, hypothyroidism, some head injuries and drinking excessively.
What does it mean to be clinically depressed?
Many people ask what a clinical diagnosis of depression is based on?
The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is the handbook published by the American Psychiatric Association that’s used by healthcare professionals around the world as the definitive guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders.
According to the DSM-5 someone must be experiencing five or more of the following symptoms during the same two-week period.
At least one of the symptoms has to be either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure.
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
- Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
To receive a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms have to cause the person clinically significant distress or impairment in occupational, social or other important areas of functioning.
However, these symptoms cannot be due to another medical condition or substance abuse.
If it is determined that someone has severe long-term symptoms that are badly impacting on the quality of life, it’s referred to as clinical depression. This is sometimes also known as major depression or major depressive disorder.
Why is it important to identify and treat depression?
Depression can take on many forms.
This includes such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD); seasonal affective disorder (SAD); dysthymia (or persistent depressive disorder); situational depression; and bipolar disorder depression. More details on the types of depression can be found here.
It’s important that the type of depression is identified as this helps to find the most effective treatment. It’s also vital to identify if someone with depression has any other mental health conditions.
Common co-occurring conditions in people with clinical depression include:
- Alcohol and substance use disorders.
- ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
- Anxiety disorders.
- OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).
- Sleep disorders.
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
- ASD (autism spectrum disorders).
- Eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
What are the general methods used to treat depression?
Treatment for depression frequently involves a combination of talking therapies, medicines and self-help. It depends on the type and severity of the depression.
There are several talking therapies that can help with depression, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
CBT recognizes that events in the past may have had big influences, but it concentrates mostly on how to change the way we think, feel and behave in the present – for example, how to challenge feelings of hopelessness.
Antidepressants are medicines that treat symptoms of depression. There are different types of antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), one of the most commonly prescribed.
It is often asked: are antidepressants bad for you? They are generally considered safe, but as with all medical treatment, there can be some risk. They need to be prescribed by a doctor who can discuss this with a patient. More information on antidepressants can be found here.
There’s plenty of evidence that exercise can also help alleviate depression. This could include simply taking a daily walk, and exercising at the gym can help with feelings of loneliness.
Talking through feelings with a group can be useful to some people. There are self-help groups for people with depression. Also, there are many self-help books that deal with depression.
Eating a balanced healthy diet can be very beneficial as well. This means plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and fish.
The professionals at White River fully understand depression and will help you or someone you care about to be able to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.