What is depression?
Depression can be defined as a medical illness that is often associated with low mood. It is a treatable condition that is not the patient’s fault. It is also a very common illness that affects a large number of people in all societies the world over. Major Depression is among the most disabling and distressing of medical disorders. It affects more women than men, and can occur at any age. Its symptoms include low mood, loss of interest, reduced energy, and may make it difficult for one to function well or at all.
Other symptoms include a feeling of hopelessness, feeling of guilt, poor concentration which may manifest as forgetfulness and difficulty in making decisions. Poor sleep, an experience of frequent nightmares, intermittently waking up and complaining of difficulty getting back to sleep, or waking up earlier than usual. There may be loss of self-esteem and self-confidence. Appetite may be diminished with many complaining that food tastes bland in their mouth.
The results of depression
A frequent thought of death and ideas of self-harm or even suicide may occur. There are also common somatic symptoms that many patients complain about, like feeling one’s heart beat which is known as palpitation, low libido, feeling of heaviness of the head, feeling of crawling sensations around the body etc.
It is a known fact that many people seek medical attention only because of the somatic symptoms and not the depressive symptoms. Many of these symptoms occur in people who do not have depression, but then the symptoms are not sustained and may only last from a few minutes to a few days. A person must have at least 2 of the first three symptoms with some of the others, continuously, for at least 2 weeks to be diagnosed as having depression.
Depression often lasts for at least 6 months but may last for up to 18 months and may remit or improve without treatment at the end of that time.
Causes of depression
Recent stressful life events and difficulties. For instance, bereavement, loss of job, difficulties in relationships, loss of marriage or having certain physical illnesses, especially chronic disorders.
Genetics, whereby a person may inherit the tendency to become depressed from the parents. Having had Major Depression before makes a person prone to having another episode.
Psychological treatment – provides education, reassurance, encouragement and other forms of talking therapy.
Pharmacological treatment – in which drugs or medications are given.
Physical treatment – includes other measures that could be included in the treatment, including physical exercise, electroconvulsive therapy.