Sadness, feeling down, having a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities - these are symptoms familiar to all of us. But, if they persist and affect our life substantially, it may be depression.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the most common illness worldwide and the leading cause of disability. They estimate that 350 million people are affected by depression, globally.
Fast facts on depression:
Depression seems to be more common among women than men.
Symptoms include lack of joy and reduced interest in things that used to bring a person happiness.
Life events, such as bereavement, produce mood changes that can usually be distinguished from the features of depression.
The causes of depression are not fully understood but are likely to be a complex combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psycho social factors.
Causes of depression
There are a number of factors that may increase the chance of depression, including the following:
- Abuse. Past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can increase the vulnerability to clinical depression later in life.
- Certain medications. Some drugs, such as isotretinoin (used to treat acne), the antiviral drug interferon-alpha, and corticosteroids, can increase your risk of depression.
- Conflict. Depression in someone who has the biological vulnerability to develop depression may result from personal conflicts or disputes with family members or friends.
- Death or a loss. Sadness or grief from the death or loss of a loved one, though natural, may increase the risk of depression.
- Genetics. A family history of depression may increase the risk. It's thought that depression is a complex trait, meaning that there are probably many different genes that each exert small effects, rather than a single gene that contributes to disease risk. The genetics of depression, like most psychiatric disorders, are not as simple or straightforward as in purely genetic diseases such as Huntington's chorea or cystic fibrosis.
- Major events. Even good events such as starting a new job, graduating, or getting married can lead to depression. So, can moving, losing a job or income, getting divorced, or retiring. However, the syndrome of clinical depression is never just a "normal" response to stressful life events.
- Other personal problems. Problems such as social isolation due to other mental illnesses or being cast out of a family or social group can contribute to the risk of developing clinical depression.
- Serious illnesses. Sometimes depression co-exists with a major illness or may be triggered by another medical condition.
- Substance abuse. Nearly 30% of people with substance abuse problems also have major or clinical depression. Even if drugs or alcohol temporarily make you feel better, they ultimately will aggravate depression.
Major depressive disorder changes how a person feels and acts during a period of time called a depressive episode.
during this time, the person feels extremely sad every day and the feeling lasts for a minimum of two weeks. Sadness is subjective and different for everyone, so before you label or diagnose someone who is sad with depression, it’s important to think about whether or not their behavior is noticeably different from how they usually act in similar circumstances.
· feeling blue or sad more often than not
· feeling like life isn’t fun or pleasurable anymore
· losing interest in things that used to be a huge part of their life
· changes in appetite and weight, like eating significantly more and gaining weight, or not eating at all
· changes in sleep quality or amount of sleep, like sleeping less, or sleeping more but still feeling tired
· changes in speech, like becoming less talkative
· psycho motor agitation, like hand wringing, pacing, or tapping the foot
· feelings of worthlessness or guilt
· low self-esteem
· thinking about death or wishing for death
thoughts of suicide are the most serious symptom of depression. When people consistently experience extreme symptoms like the ones listed above, they may sometimes begin to think that death is the only way for them to escape their pain. Because they may also feel that their future is hopeless and nothing will get better, they are much more likely to act on the thoughts that they have about death. As their depression becomes more severe, their risk of suicide also increases.
Specific warning signs for suicide include:
· frequent, intense, or long-lasting suicidal ideation, or thoughts about killing oneself
· stating that there is no reason to live
· feeling trapped or like they are a burden to others
· increasing alcohol or drug use
· giving away possessions or saying goodbye in a way that seems final