Clinical depression is a growing concern in the Western World. It has become a common debilitating mental disease with one in five persons in the U.K. having had depression at some point in their lives. It hits all age groups, income levels, and communities. Its growth is accelerating to the point that it could become one of the most incapacitating conditions in the developed world by 2020, second only to heart disease.
Normal bouts of sadness are natural occurrences. Death of a loved one, for instance, may cause one, grief. In a mentally healthy individual, the intensity may last for a short time and taper off eventually to a steady acceptance. Grief that spirals into clinical depression however will stay with the individual for the long haul and could disrupt his daily functions.
Depression Is a Real Illness
A person with a depressive disorder is truly sick. Much like a physical illness in which an organ or its system is weakened, so it is with depression of which its compromised organ is the brain. Diabetes, for instance, is a physical disease that involves the impaired function of the metabolic system to handle the hormone, insulin. Likewise, the condition of depression involves an impairment of the nervous system manifesting with the imbalance of certain brain chemicals; low production of neurons and nerve cell connections; and impaired nerve cell growth and nerve circuit functions.
Many factors can trigger depression. Life events can traumatize people into a depression. Our biological makeup such as genetics and brain chemistry are major factors as well. Serious medical illnesses such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease can also lead a person into a depressive state. Some medications used to treat physical illnesses may have depression as its side effect.
The State of Depression Varies for Each Person
The degree, frequency, and length of depressive symptoms are as individualized as the person afflicted by it. Symptoms vary from person to person with the variety dependent on age, gender, culture, and other factors. Some people feel only a few symptoms while others are burdened by many. In addition, there are people, especially children and adolescents, who do not even recognize the symptoms of depression. Men feel it differently than women and have different coping strategies as well.
Symptoms of Depression
The tell-tale signs of depression include but are not limited to the following:
- Sad or anxious mood that does not go away for a long time
- Chronic empty feeling
- Thoughts of suicide; attempts at suicide
- Increased pessimism; hopelessness
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Decreased cognitive functions. Depressed person has trouble remembering or making sound judgements or decisions.
- Physical aches, pains, and other symptoms, such as headaches, palpitations, and stomach aches which do not test positive for any physical illness
- Feelings of very low self-worth, inferiority, and guilt
- Chronic reduced energy levels; exhaustion; fatigue
- Fast weight changes and appetite changes
- Loss of interest in things previously enjoyed; loss of interest in anything and anyone
- Markedly reduced libido
Some people may not be aware of their depressed state because symptoms can come gradually to them. They may have kept themselves busy to avoid feeling sad or hurt. Eventually the strain does catch up to them and they start to exhibit some of the above symptoms. Physical pains however without any physical cause may also signal that a person has a psychological issue.
Treatment for Depression
The good news is that depression, even severe cases, can be treated; however, diagnosis and treatment is best at the early stages where recovery is faster. When you suspect yourself of being depressed, seek professional help as soon as possible. Expect treatment to include talking therapies with your psychiatrist. Antidepressant medication may also be prescribed if your situation warrants it.
What You Can Do to Help Yourself
Aside from seeking professional help, there are a number of ways by which you can help yourself feel better. First thing you can do is take charge of your physical health. As the mind and body are tied together, whatever affects the body affects the mind and vice-versa. You can start by:
- Eating a well balanced diet everyday
- Beginning and sticking seriously to an exercise program
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking, and illicit drugs. These substances just worsen depression.
- Fixing your sleeping patterns. Getting a good night’s rest everyday is crucial to your recovery.
Your emotional state needs nurturing as well:
- Find a trusted friend or family member you can talk to about your issues and emotional condition.
- Approach depression with a plan. Write down what you think is causing the problem and the positive ways you can fight your negative state.
- Join a support group of people with the same problem.
- Avoid making any major life decisions until you can handle big changes.
- Avoid piling up more work to perpetually take your mind away from your issue. You need to set aside time to go over the problem so you can eventually come to terms with it.
Learn all you can about depression in order to understand the condition better. The road to recovery may be a shorter path if you simply work positively toward achieving that healing goal.