What is depression? Depression is a disorder that affects a person’s mood and feelings. Depression can last anywhere from weeks to years. With depression, feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration can negatively affect a person’s day to day life. Over 120 million people worldwide suffer from depression. People with depression often feel withdrawn or isolated from the people around them.
They may have trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of hopelessness. Some people with depression may have suicidal thoughts or a preoccupation with death. Depression can interfere with a person’s ability to work, study, socialize, sleep, and eat normally. There are four main types of depression: major depression, dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder.
Major depression is a recurring disorder with moderate to severe symptoms and characterized by the inability to experience pleasure. Although some people may experience just one episode of depression in their lifetime, typically, if left untreated, episodes of depression can last up to six months at a time.
Dysthymia is a mild, but chronic type of depression. Symptoms of dysthymia can last up to two years, although they are not as severe as with major depression. People with dysthymia may not even know they are depressed, but think that having a low mood is simply part of their personality.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs in people who get depressed during winter months and gloomy weather such as rain and fog where there is limited sunlight. It is most common in younger people and in northern climates.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme cycles of depression and manic (impulsiveness, hyperactivity) behavior. Depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder typically last least several weeks and symptoms are that of major depression.
What causes depression?
There is no one cause of depression. Many people believe depression is simply a chemical imbalance in the brain, but there are many other factors that contribute to depression. Psychological, biological, and social factors all contribute to depression. Some common risk factors associated with depression are drug or alcohol abuse, unemployment, loneliness, illness, financial problems, relationship issues, childhood trauma, excessive stress, and a family history of depression.
Common treatments for depression:
Treatments for depression depend on what type of depression a person has and what (if applicable) the underlying cause of the depression is. If the cause of depression is not biological or psychological then, in many cases, lifestyle changes may be all the treatment required. For biological and psychological causes of depression, there are numerous medications or therapy treatments available.
Therapy is usually the first line of treatment for most cases of depression. In therapy, a person can learn best how to manage the feelings that come from being depressed. Sometimes a therapist can help a person understand the cause of their depression and help to resolve any issues associated with that cause. When therapy is not enough, medication may be prescribed also. Common antidepressant medications include Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, and Lexapro. For severe depression, electroconvulsive therapy is considered the most effective treatment.