Depression

What is it? 

Depression, along with anxiety, is one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders. The term ‘clinical depression’ is used to denote the severity of symptoms or the level of personal distress. While everyone experiences sadness at times, clinical or major depression is characterised by a persistent state of sadness or low mood lasting for weeks, coupled with an inability to find joy in activities that were once enjoyable. Even minor tasks can become challenging, and sleep and energy levels may decline as negative thoughts take over. 

Symptoms 

Depression symptoms can vary among individuals, and across different types of depression but commonly include: 

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness 
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters 
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities 
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much 
  • Tiredness and lack of energy 
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people 
  • Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness 
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements 
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming oneself for things that aren’t one’s responsibility 
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things 
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide 
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches 

Causes 

Depression is a multifaceted condition believed to be influenced by various factors. It’s thought that an imbalance in brain chemistry, involving numerous chemicals both inside and outside nerve cells, contributes to depression. Genetic predisposition also plays a significant role, with individuals having a higher risk if they have a family history of depression. Stressful life events, such as loss or chronic stress, can trigger depression. Additionally, the brain’s inability to regulate mood effectively can lead to depression. Certain physical health problems, like chronic illness, can also contribute to depression. These factors interact in complex ways, and the causes can vary among individuals. 

Interventions 

There are numerous effective strategies for managing depression, including therapy, medication, neurostimulation, and changes in lifestyle and environment. Safety is of utmost importance, and the experience can be quite daunting for the individual with depression, as well as their family and caregivers. Early intervention is always beneficial. As the individual recovers from depression, the focus can shift towards preventing relapse and fostering personal growth.