What is Depression?

Depression in a true clinical sense is a mood disorder and is a very serious medical condition. Depression can severely affect ones life as it can worsen ones physical health, negatively affect ones feelings, moods, and  behavior. Most people in reaction to a loss or the normal struggles in life have at least once in their lives experienced a quickly passing period of sadness or of feeling blue. This short experience of sadness or depression is different from true clinical depression.
Severely Depressed Man

In true clinical depression there are greater and prolonged symptoms of a mental disturbance. Periods of intense sadness, decreased energy, feelings of worthlessness and a loss of interest in life are usually experienced.

With clinical depression these symptoms can at times occur for apparently no reason, last for years and interfere severely with ones attempts at functioning normally in day-to-day life. Some before experiencing clinical depression were at very happy points in their lives with no reason to feel sad or depressed. 

Famous People With Bipolar Disorder: Famous People Who Suffer(ed) With Depression: Depression is a major mental illness that has affected many lives.... 

What Causes Depression?

Scan showing there is a a significant loss of neurotransmitter activity in the brain of a depressed person
Reduction of Neurotransmitter activity

An exact answer to what causes depression is still not known. Based on many years of observance and research, doctors believe that depression is caused by chemical changes in the brain. Biologically the brain of people with depression is different from those who have never experienced depression. A smaller hippocampus, lower levels of serotonin and excess amounts of the stress hormone cortisol are evident in the brain of depression sufferers. 

What causes these changes in one's brain that then inflicts them with depression? This could be caused by many of reasons, it could be triggered by stressful events in one's life, it may be due to a problem with a persons genes, or a combination of both. 

Other possible causes, triggers, or role players in depression: 
  • Stressful Event: A relationship breakup, loss of a loved one, job loss, abuse, bullying, or unwanted social isolation.
  • Medical Conditions: Under-active thyroid, diabetes, Alzheimer's, stroke, cancer, Parkinson's, and heart disease.
  • Sleeping Problems: Sleep is important as it revitalizes the mind and body. When sleep is inadequate it can effect ones mood, can cause one to be irritable and very tense.
  • Medication: Certain blood pressure medication, steroids, antibiotics, sleeping pills and birth control pills.
  • Abuse of  Drugs or Alcohol: Often people who are stressed or depressed are known to drink or use drugs trying to make the emotional pain go away. However the other is true as well, abuse of alcohol and drugs could trigger depression.
  • Hormone Level Changes: Pregnancy and childbirth can create major hormonal changes in a woman and major levels of stress.
  • Hereditary: Some types of depression can run in the family although this is not always the case.  

Depression is very complex and can occur for a variety of reasons. Depression has very serious disruptive effects on people's lives.    
 Effects of Depression:
  • Very fatigued almost everyday
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Avoiding social events, isolating oneself.
  • Dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
  • Persistently feeling sad, hopeless, helpless, and worthless.
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed.
  • Concentration and decision-making difficulties.
  • Effect on a person's work performance.
Depression is like a war against oneself

Depressive Illnesses can have very severe effects on people's lives. However, not every person with depression will experience the exact symptoms or severity of symptoms. There are varying types and severity of depression.

Types of Depression:
  • Major depression or major depressive disorder: This type of depression is abnormal because of its severity and persistence without reasonable environmental cause. It is often disabling as ones ability to function satisfactorily in normal day-to-day activities are severely effected.
  • Situational or reactive depression: This type of depression is triggered by a stressful life event and usually does not persist long after the event which triggered the depression has ended.
  • Dysthymia or chronic depression: This type of depressive illness is not of the same severity but is generally a more chronic form of major depression. The low moods can persist in a person for over a year yet the condition is usually not severe enough that it becomes disabling.
  • Seasonal affective disorder: The depression associated with this disorder originates from ones sensitivity to the lessening of natural sunlight that occurs in winter climates. The depression symptoms with (SAD) tend to be mild and end with winters passing.
  • Manic Depression: This type of depressive illness often includes severe major depression with a cycling in of mania which can cause delusions or hallucinations during the alternate periods of mania. The severity of this type of depression is often disabling.
  • Postpartum depression: This depressive illness can cause a mother to disconnect from the needs of their newborn and to have an extreme fear that they will harm the baby. Severe sadness and suicidal thoughts are also often present. 

Facts about Depression:
  • Approximately 15 million adults in the U.S. has a major depressive disorder.
  • Approximately 3.5 million adults in the U.S. has dysthymia.
  • Globally more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. (WHO) 
  • For the age group 15-44 major depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.
  • It is estimated that between 80-90% of people with major depression can be effectively treated. (NAMI)
  • Women are nearly twice as likely to suffer from a major depressive disorder than men are.
  • Depression can occur in anyone even children.
  • With age the symptoms of depression become even more severe.
  • About thirty percent of people with depressive illnesses attempt suicide.
  • An untreated depressed person will on average die 25 years sooner than they otherwise would have.
  • Heart failure patients with moderate to severe depression have 4 times the risk of dying compared to those without depression. (American Heart Association)
  • Depression is one of the most treatable of all mental disorders.
Treatment for Depression:

Most commonly used treatments for depression. (NAMI)
  • Medications called antidepressants which come in various types ssri's, snri's, tca's and atypical antidepressants. 
  • Talk therapy which could include psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
If your depression is a less severe one then you may only need one of the above treatment options. If your depression is a severe type then usually a combination of both treatments are used. In either case it is very important that you take your medicine precisely as your doctor orders if they are suggested. However always make sure to ask questions about any drugs being suggested for you by your doctor. Take an active role in your health as it's your life and quality of life that is involved.

Do not discontinue your drug therapy plan if you start to feel better. Do not stop your treatment because it seems the medicine is not helping you. Do not stop taking your medicine because you do not like the way it makes you feel. Stick to the plan, continue consulting with your doctor as he evaluates the effects of your therapy, by doing so proper decisions about your medication can be made.

With psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy it can help you become much more aware of your symptoms and give you the tools to spot and be better able to avoid things that worsen your condition. If your doctor has ordered talk therapy as a combination to your drug therapy make sure to keep all your therapy appointments as this can greatly help the overall results of your depression treatment. 
Statistically as many as 30% of people do not feel better with antidepressants. Some people have treatment-resistant depression. If this proves to be true in your case your doctor still has several options available that may help. He could adjust your dosage or try different combinations of medications. 

Some Alternative treatments for depression.    
These alternative treatments for depression are most often explored after determining a patients unable to improve with medication or talk therapy. All treatment methods above may have their own side effect risks so full consultation with a doctor is advised. 

May 19th, 2013 UPDATE: Patients with treatment-resistant major depression saw dramatic improvement in their illness after treatment with ketamine, an anesthetic, according to the largest ketamine clinical trial to-date led by researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The antidepressant benefits of ketamine were seen within 24 hours, whereas traditional antidepressants can take days or weeks to demonstrate a reduction in depression. Source If you suffer with treatment resistant depression speak to your doctor about this.

Self Improvement Methods for Improving Our Mental Health:

  • Regular exercise even if only 15 minutes a day of brisk walking has been proven in studies to have positive effects on mood. In addition sunlight and nature are proven mental health essentials.
  • Get a healthy amount of sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation and disturbances are linked to higher risks for depression and anxiety.
  • If you drink alcohol limit your alcohol intake to moderate levels because alcohol depresses the nervous system. Moderate alcohol intake has been defined by doctors as 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men. If exceeding those limits on special occasions be sure to pace yourself and alternate with a glass of water.
  • Don't bottle up anger. Do not allow anger to fester within you as it is associated with depression symptoms. If you cannot forgive and let it go it is best to express it in an assertive but calm matter.
  • Make efforts to socialize with friends and family. Isolating of oneself is a common symptom of depression. However, even if for just a brief cup of coffee it is proven that such social interactions in the end are usually very uplifting and prove to be more fun then expected.

Picture text keep going up the steps to depression recovery the view at the top is beautiful

Millions of people in the world are effected by depression. Depression is complex, comes in many types and can cause severe consequences to those it inflicts. Without treatment in all likelihood your condition will worsen and persist. However with treatment your odds statistically for recovery from depression are very high! 

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