Depression is a mental health disorder, thought to be due to changes in neural circuit activity. Depression is characterized by persistent sadness or loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. The condition impairs daily life and requires a medical diagnosis. Situational depression (a form of depression that can occur in the aftermath of various traumatic changes in your life—such as when reacting to a death) may be a normal variant, unless it continues on for long periods.
Depression is a mental illness that requires medical treatment. It may not be a permanent illness; most people do get better within months. Depression is quite a common mental disorder that may affect anyone, but it should be taken seriously.
The exact cause behind depression has yet to be revealed. It is believed to be due to a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Distress or traumatic experiences can also influence the onset of depression.
The signs or symptoms of depression vary greatly, due to a range of behavioral and physical changes that each particular individual may experience. There could be modifications in the following:
Weight gain or weight loss are also common symptoms, as is excessive hunger or loss of appetite and fatigue. In addition, it is important to watch for suicidal thoughts.
Everyone feels down sometimes. But those at most risk of developing clinical depression include the following:
Bipolar disorder is characterized by two phases, depressive and mania. Bipolar depression refers to the “low” phase of bipolar disorder. It includes symptoms of low energy, loss of interest, sadness, suicidal thoughts, and fatigue. In the manic phase, someone may be prone to dangerous behavior, like excessive drinking, large item purchases, and multiple sexual partners.
This is the name doctors give to what we commonly called “clinical depression.” This means that someone has at least five of the symptoms listed below for two consecutive weeks.
Symptoms can include:
Many people feel some relief from their depressive symptoms when they do activities that help release neurotransmitters to the brain. Exercising, talking to a loved one, and doing a fun, interactive activity can all help. Peer and support groups have also shown to help.
Sleeping is important, too. Lack of sleep, by itself, cannot cause depression. But not getting enough sleep can definitely make symptoms of depression much worse.
Some recent studies have shown that there is a gut-brain connection to some important neurotransmitters like serotonin. Eating healthy foods and healing the gut can help with some depressive symptoms.
There are many different types of medications used for depression. They are categorized by how they work on your neurotransmitters in your brain. Common categories include the following:
Depression is commonly treated with a combination of medications and therapies. Cognitive behavioral therapy, behavior therapy, and/or psychotherapy are the most common psychological therapies. Antidepressants and/or antipsychotics will normally also be given along with some form of relaxation techniques. Antidepressant medications are used to increase certain levels of the brain’s neurotransmitters. Sometimes natural lifestyle changes may also be utilized, such as exercise and healthy eating. Severe depression may be treated with ECT (electroconvulsive therapy).
Depression may be diagnosed by your primary care doctor, or your doctor may request an evaluation from a specialist, such as a psychiatrist. Diagnosis is based off symptoms, medical history, family history, and duration of illness. Honesty is key when responding to questions and describing your ailment. Some common problems can cause symptoms that seem like depression, so be sure your doctor screens you for conditions such as thyroid problems or hormonal issues.
During menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels permanently drop to low levels. Some women experience depression during this life change, and scientists believe it is related to how the rise and fall of estrogen and other hormones affect the chemistry of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Postpartum depression occurs after childbirth. It is characterized by extreme sadness, low energy, anxiety, and irritability. Sleep and eating patterns are also commonly affected, and uncontrollable crying may happen. It may also be difficult for the woman to bond with her baby. Many new mothers experience hormonal and physical changes right after giving birth, when caring for a newborn seems overwhelming. However, if the symptoms don’t go away after about 10 days, it is time for a new mother to seek treatment and emotional support.
Scientists believe that some types of depression are related to hormone activity, which contributes to the statistic that depression is twice as common among women as among men. About 20 percent of women will experience at least one depressive episode during their lifetime. The biological changes that happen to a woman during puberty, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause may contribute to depressive episodes in women.
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