Depression

Depression Is Not Just Sorrow

Science and research has made amazing progress in helping to unlock the root causes of depression. Previously, many people believed that depression was simply a case of sadness, hopelessness and helplessness that was caused by the inability of the individual to simply "snap out" of these emotions. In fact, researchers have now clearly established a link between actual measurable changes in the brain and the development of depression.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a state of experiencing changes in moods and emotions as well as changes in your actual physical being. It is a medical condition that impacts life in a negative way by creating a continuous or constant feeling of sadness and the inability to enjoy life on a daily basis. There are several different types of depression, with major depressive disorder being the most commonly diagnosed.

Major depressive disorder may also be known as clinical depression and results in multiple symptoms that occur over extended periods of time. It is estimated by the World Health Organisation that about 5% of the world's population falls into the category of having major depressive disorder. The WHO also reports that depression is the fourth most common cause of death and disability in the world and that ranking is on the rise.

In the United Kingdom the National Institute for Clinical Excellence reports that of every 1000 people between the ages of 16 and 65 about 21 would be considered to have major depression. It is found at a higher range in women than men and, if combined with an anxiety disorder, the rate of prevalence increases to about 98 out of 1000.

Unfortunately many people with depression do not seek help or treatment. They may mistakenly believe that the symptoms they are experiencing are who they actually are and how they normally think, feel and behave. This is because the brain chemistry has been altered and the depressive state becomes the new norm for the brain.

Symptoms of Depression

The symptoms of depression tend to become more pronounced and significant over time, but, with treatment, they can be corrected and reversed. Some people have one bout of depression in their lives while others may have several and the symptoms can vary from person to person.

The most common symptoms noted with most forms of depression include:

  • Negative emotional feelings of anxiety
  • Pessimism, sadness and loneliness
  • Restlessness, irritability and agitation
  • Difficulty in memory, concentration and decision making
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Headaches, body pains and digestive problems
  • Increase in common illnesses
  • Loss of interest in life, including favourite activities
  • Avoiding interaction with friends and family
These changes are due to the increased presence of an enzyme in the brain that breaks down the "feel-good" chemicals in the brain. These include serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine and, by using selective medication, the breakdown can be corrected.

Treatment

In addition to medical support to correct the chemical imbalance of major depression, counselling and therapy is considered a highly effective intervention. Patients can learn effective ways to deal with anxiety and stress and also learn to modify and correct negative thinking patterns that may be contributing to the depression. For patients with lower level types of depression counselling or therapy may be all that is required to treat the condition and to live a happy, depression-free life.

Posted by: Philippe Jacquet