Depression: Understanding the facts
Depression is a state of feeling sad. It is a condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless or unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that 8.1% of American adults ages 20 and above had depression in any given two-week period from 2013-2016.
This disorder can manifest in diverse ways and it has the potency to interrupt our daily life activities. It can reduce productivity and lead to enormous loss of time. It can also affect interpersonal relationships and even deteriorate in some health conditions.
The following are conditions that can be worsened by depression;
It is critical to note that feeling down at times is a normal part of life. Human lives are not devoid of sad and unpleasant events. Terrible things happen to everyone and sometimes these occurrences result in depression. One could be dealing with depression if distress and the hopeless feeling persists.
Symptoms of depression
This disorder can result in different symptoms. Symptoms can affect one’s mood and some can affect the body. Symptoms may also be in progress or occur intermittently. The disorder affects men, women, and children in different ways.
Symptoms of depression in men are;
- Mood: It affects mood. With the onset of depression, different forms of mood could be observed; anger, aggressiveness, irritability, anxiousness, restlessness.
- Emotional Alteration: A sudden feeling of emptiness, sadness, hopelessness, etc.
- Change in behavior: Loss of interest, no longer finding pleasure in favorite activities, feeling tired easily, thoughts of suicide, excessive drinking, drug abuse, engaging in high-risk activities, etc.
- Change in sexual behavior: Reduced libido and lack of sexual performance.
- Impaired Concentration: Inability to concentrate, difficulty completing tasks, and delayed responses during conversations.
- Change in the sleeping pattern: Insomnia, restless sleep, excessive sleep, and lack of sleep at night.
- Physical: Fatigue, pains, headache, and digestive problems.
Symptoms of depression in women;
- Mood: Irritability
- Alteration in emotion: Feeling sad or empty, anxious or hopeless.
- Change in behavior: loss of interest in activities, withdrawing from social engagements, and having thoughts of suicide.
- Impaired Concentration: thinking or talking more slowly.
- Sleep: Difficulty sleeping through the night, waking early, and sleeping too much.
- Physical: Decreased energy, greater fatigue, changes in appetite, weight changes, aches, pain, headache, and cramps.
Symptoms of depression in children;
- Mood: Irritability, anger, mood swings, and crying.
- Emotional alteration: Feelings of incompetence, despair, and crying intensely.
- Impaired concentration: Difficulty concentrating and decline in school performance.
- Sleep: Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.
- Physical: Loss of energy, digestive problems, changes in appetite, weight loss or gain.
Causes of depression
Family Background: People with a family history of depression are at a greater chance of developing depression or another mood disorder.
Early childhood trauma: Childhood exposure to certain events modifies the way the body responds to fear and stressful situations.
Brain structure: People with decreased activity in the frontal lobe of the brain are more likely to develop the disorder. However, it has not been discovered if this happens before or after the onset of depressive symptoms.
Medical conditions: Certain conditions may put one at a higher risk of developing depression such as chronic illness, insomnia, pain or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Causes of depression could be biological or circumstantial. Many other people never learn or know the cause of their depression.
Other risks factors for depression include;
- Low self-esteem.
- Personal history of mental illness.
- Certain medications.
Stressful events, such as loss of a loved one, economic problems or divorce.
There is no single specific test to detect this disorder. Doctors can perform diagnosis based on one’s symptoms and psychological evaluation. Don’t wave symptoms of depression. If your mood doesn’t improve or gets worse, seek medical help.
Depression, if left untreated, could result in the following complications;
- Weight gain or loss.
- Physical pain.
- Panic attacks.
- Relationship problems.
- Suicidal thoughts.
Types of depression
Major Depressive Disorder: This is a type of depression where there is persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness that doesn’t disappear on their own. It is a severe form of the disorder.
Under major depressive disorder, we have different subtypes. These include;
- Atypical features.
- Anxious distress.
- Mixed features.
- Psychotic features.
- Seasonal patterns.
- Melancholic features.
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD): This type is mild and lasts longer, but usually presentable in chronic form. It is also known as dysthymia. To be able to diagnose PDD, symptoms must appear at least for 2 years. PDD’s impact is greater than that of major depression due to its long duration.
Common symptoms in people with PDD include;
- lose interest in normal daily activities
- feels hopeless
- lack productivity
- have low self-esteem
Depression can be treated successfully. However, it is paramount to stick to whatever treatment plan recommended.
- Medication: Symptoms can be treated with either one form of treatment or multiple therapies. It all depends on what works best, whether it’s a combination of treatments or single therapy. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety or psychotic medications can be administered to depressive patients if prescribed by a qualified doctor.
- Psychotherapy: Reaching out to a therapist can be of huge help and great relief. This can help one acquire or improve skills to survive negative feelings. Family or group therapy sessions can be of tremendous benefit.
- Light Therapy: Access to white light can help control mood and alleviate symptoms of depression. This therapy is commonly used in major depressive disorder.
- Alternative Therapies: Inquire from your doctor about acupuncture or meditation. These are some herbal supplements that can be used to treat depression such as St. John’s Wort, SAMe (S-Adenosyl methionine) and fish oil. Speak with your doctor before taking a supplement or combining a supplement with prescription to avoid adverse or contraindication. You have to be careful, as some supplements can worsen depression or reduce the effectiveness of the medication.
- Exercise: For every 3-5 days in a week, 30 minutes of intense physical activity wouldn’t be bad. Exercise is known to cause an increase in the body’s production of endorphins which are hormones that improve one’s mood.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs: Excessive drinking and drug use can only provide temporary happiness. But subsequently, these substances can worsen depression symptoms. Avoiding alcohol and drug abuse or drug use can help avert the consequences.
- Say No When Necessary: You need to know when to set and sustain boundaries in your professional and personal life, as well as your relationship life. Allowing life circumstances or people-made events/reactions to overthrow you can worsen depression symptoms. Being in charge and setting boundaries when and where necessary can help you feel a lot better.
- Exclusive Self-Care: Symptoms of depression can also be improved through what is called exclusive self-care. This involves getting sleep, eating a healthy diet, avoiding negative people and participation in activities that make you happy.
- Supplements: These are usually added to drugs or food to improve or make treatment complete. Several types of supplements have been found to have some positive impact on depression symptoms. These include St. John’s Wort, S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe), 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), Omega-3-fatty acids, essential oils, vitamins (B12, B6, D).
Sometimes depression doesn’t respond to medication. Your doctor may recommend other treatment options if symptomatic don’t improve. These include electroconvulsive therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat and improve your mood.
Depression is not preventable. Most times, it’s difficult to trace its cause which makes preventing it a herculean task. But once you have encountered a depressive episode, you ought to be ready to avoid subsequent occurrence by learning which lifestyle changes and treatments are helpful. Techniques that may help include;
- Regular exercise.
- Getting plenty of sleep.
- Maintaining treatments.
- Reducing stress.
- Building strong relationships with others.
Depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety can occur simultaneously or concurrently within the same individual. Studies have shown that 70% of people with the depressive disorder also have anxiety symptoms. Although the causes of anxiety and depression are different, they both can produce similar different symptoms. These include irritability, difficulty with memory or concentration and sleep problems. Both depression and anxiety can be treated like cognitive behavioral therapy, medication or alternative therapies in hypnotherapy. Everyone experiences depression at one point or the other. It could be short-term or long-term. Treatment is not always a guarantee towards the permanent end of the depression. Managing depression involves administering an appropriate combination of therapies. If one treatment plan doesn’t work out, there’s room to always try an alternative therapy.
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.