Depression is the most common mental health problem and the leading cause of disability worldwide. In the United States, it affects about one in 20 people, but you probably know someone who has been affected by this illness. However, because there's a stigma associated with depression, many people don’t talk openly about it. People may feel ashamed or think they will be judged if they reveal their struggles with depression.
It is essential to understand that everyone experiences ups and downs during life – this is natural and not something to be feared. But, when these lows become frequent or intense enough to impact your social life and work performance negatively, this could mean you are struggling with depression. Here are some facts about depression you should know so that you can understand if you are at risk for developing it or know someone who does:
What is Depression?
If you’re not depressed, it’s easy to say, “just cheer up.” But if you suffer from depression, it can be challenging to identify the problem, let alone solve it. So what is it? The most basic definition of depression is a persistent feeling of sadness, and it’s one of the most common mental health issues, affecting millions of people each year. You can be diagnosed with depression if you have five or more of the following symptoms for two weeks or longer: Feeling sad or empty, Feeling irritable or angry, Having very little interest in things that you once enjoyed Feeling guilty or worthless, Feeling very tired or having no energy Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much Having less ability to focus or think Having changes in your appetite (eating too much or too little) Those symptoms can significantly interfere with your daily life. They can make it tough to go to work or school, have healthy relationships with friends and family, and enjoy things you used to do.
What causes depression?
The causes of depression are complex, but most experts believe it results from a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Biological factors that may contribute to depression include genetic vulnerability, a history of childhood abuse or trauma, and lower levels of certain neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers in the brain). Psychological factors that can contribute to depression include negative thoughts, feelings of helplessness, and a challenging life event, such as a death in the family, job loss, or divorce. Environmental factors that may increase the risk for depression include a lack of social support, a stressful living or work environment, and exposure to traumatic events, such as living through war or natural disasters.
Types of Depression and Symptoms
There are many types of depression, each with its symptoms. Some of the most common types of depression include:
Major depressive disorder (MDD)
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a type of depression involving feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and low self-esteem. It can be a short-term condition that lasts two weeks or less, but it may also be a long-term condition that lasts several months or years.
The symptoms of major depressive disorder are: Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day; loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed; feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt; and thoughts about death or suicide.
Postpartum depression can affect both women and men and may occur following pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. The symptoms are similar to those of major depression but with a shift in focus to one's baby. The symptoms include depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day; anxiety or panic attacks; difficulty sleeping; fatigue or loss of energy; feeling overwhelmed or out-of-control; irritability and anger outbursts; social isolation; forgetfulness; difficulties concentrating on simple tasks and focusing on one thing at a time.
Seasonal affective disorder
This type of depression occurs during the winter when there is less sunlight, and people spend more time indoors. Symptoms include sleepiness, weight gain, carbohydrate cravings, and overeating.
Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)
This is a milder form of depression that lasts for years. People with this condition may feel sad or depressed much of the time but don't have periods when they feel extremely low, as in major depression.
Bipolar disorder involves extreme mood swings from very high (mania) to very low (depression). The manic episodes are usually severe enough to interfere with everyday activities at home and work. The depressive episodes generally last longer than two weeks but not as long as two months.
Several factors can make you more likely to develop depression. These include:
● Chronic stress is when you regularly have too many demands on your time, insufficient support, or unrealistic expectations for yourself. People who are under chronic stress may be more likely to develop depression.
● Blocked or delayed grief: This happens when you cannot process a significant loss, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or a broken relationship. This can lead to depression as you store your emotions rather than express them.
● Cognitive distortions are unhealthy and distorted ways of thinking that make you more likely to experience depression. Examples include black and white thinking (viewing things in very simplistic terms, such as “everything is terrible”), catastrophizing (exaggerating the likelihood of a negative outcome), and self-victimization (blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong).
Treatment Options for Depression
There are many treatment options for depression, including psychotherapy, medication, and self-help. The best treatment option will depend on your specific symptoms and the severity of your depression.
This can help treat mild to moderate depression. The most common types of psychotherapy used to treat depression include:
● Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This type of therapy helps you identify negative thoughts that may be contributing to your depression and change them.
● Dealing with depression and anxiety: This therapy is designed for people with co-occurring depression and anxiety.
● Interpersonal therapy: This therapy helps you work through the loss and grief that may be contributing to your depression.
● Psychodynamic therapy: This therapy helps you understand how your past may affect your current feelings and relationships.
Depression is a severe illness that can affect anyone at any time. Although treatment can be challenging, it is possible to recover from depression and lead a fulfilling life. Many treatment options are available, so you don’t have to suffer in silence. There are many types of depression, each with its symptoms and causes. Depression can be treated with therapy, medication, and self-help. To prevent depression, you should practice self-care, break negative cycles of thinking, and build support networks.