Being depressed often feels like carrying a very heavy burden, but you are not alone in this struggle. Millions of Americans suffer from some form of depression every year, making it one of the most common mental disorders in the country. Gaining a deeper understanding of depression can help begin the journey to recovery. Taking some time to learn more about the causes and symptoms of depression will assist you greatly when it comes time to consider methods of treatment.
Depression is more than just feeling sad. Everyone feels upset or unmotivated from time to time, but depression is more serious. It is a mood disorder characterized by prolonged feelings of sadness and loss of interest in daily activities. If these symptoms persist for a period of at least two weeks, it is considered a depressive episode.
Causes of Depression
- The brain’s physical structure or chemistry
- History of depression in family
- History of other disorders (anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder)
- Stressful, traumatic events (abuse, financial issues, death of a loved one)
- Hormone changes (menstrual cycles, pregnancy)
- Certain medications (sleeping aids, blood pressure medication)
Types of Depression
Just as there is no one cause for depression, there isn’t only one type of depression. It can take many forms. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders lists nine distinct types:
- Major depression, as we discussed, is the most common type of depression. Often, people with major depression experience recurrent episodes throughout their lives.
- Dysthymia is a persistent low mood over a long period of time, even a year or more. It could be described as feeling like you’re living on autopilot.
- Some people are more sensitive to the lower amount of light in the wintertime. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression brought on from a lack of natural sunlight.
- Those with Atypical Depression often report feeling a heaviness in their limbs. They may suffer from irritability and relationship problems, as well as be prone to overeating and oversleeping.
- Bipolar Disorder is also called Manic Depressive Disorder because it involves alternating between mania and depressive episodes.
- Sometimes depressive episodes can get so severe that hallucinations or delusions are present, the person becomes catatonic, or they feel stuck in bed. This is known as Psychotic Depression.
- Postpartum Depression occurs after giving birth. Mothers may feel disconnected from their new baby or fear that they will hurt their child.
- Severe depression that shows up during the second half of the menstrual cycle is called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. It affects the individual’s ability to function normally.
- Situational Depression is triggered by a life-changing event. It could be anything, from losing your job to the death of an immediate family member.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Though there are multiple types of depression, many of them have similar recognizable symptoms. This list scratches the surface, but it provides a general idea of what comprises depression:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, or emptiness
- Irritability, frustration, or restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that used to be enjoyable
- Difficulty sleeping, sleep disturbances, or sleeping too much
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Difficulty thinking clearly, remembering, concentrating, or making decisions
- Appetite or weight changes
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or back pain
What Are the Treatment Options for Depression?
The vast majority of people with depression who seek treatment will find a cure, with success rates of about 80 or 90 percent. But getting there isn’t easy. Finding the right approach can take work, even as the options expand and become more targeted to each patient’s particular needs.
For people looking for medication-free help, there are more choices than ever — from acupuncture, meditation, and yoga to cognitive behavioral therapy, designed to replace harmful patterns in one’s thoughts with healthy one.
Antidepressants remain a powerful tool, especially as researchers learn more about brain chemistry and develop new drugs that better correct neurological imbalances, with fewer side effects.
For the most intractable cases of depression, physicians may turn to brain-stimulation treatments like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). ECT can provide fast relief with far fewer side effects than electroshock therapy did so infamously.
On the other end of the spectrum, researchers are exploring a salvage medication for people with suicidal depression: ketamine, a street drug that can induce hallucinations and out-of-body experiences but that can also provide astonishingly swift relief from depression.
People still misinterpret what mental health or illness is due to the taboo around it. And this is the reason not many of us talk about it.
A World Health Organization report shows that India is leading as the most depressed country in the world, followed by China and USA.
Our country has the most number of cases of anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The study also states that at least 6.5 per cent of the Indian population suffers from some form of the serious mental disorder.
The increasing cases of mental problems in our country have been attributed to the lack of mental health workers like psychologists, psychiatrists, and doctors.
According to the data from 2014, the ratio of mental health workers to the population is just 1 in 1,00,000 people. Overall, India has just about 5,000 psychiatrists and less than 2,000 clinical psychologists.
According to 2015-16 National Mental Health Survey (NMHS) survey, every sixth person in India needs mental health help of some sort. Of all the age groups, it is the adolescents who need most help with mental health issues.
Despite the fact that the Mental Healthcare Bill makes it mandatory for the state governments to provide affordable mental healthcare for all, the cost of treatment remains high in almost all the states. This makes it difficult for common man to avail the treatment.
Most of the times, talking about mental health is considered to be a taboo in our society. This has further prevented people from speaking up about their mental health issues.
It is high time that we started taking mental health seriously, else it would soon turn into an epidemic in India.