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What is Depression? | Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatment
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What is Depression?

Depression, also referred to as clinical depression, major depression disorder, or unipolar depression is a mental disorder that influences a person’s mood and is characterize by an all-encompassing low mood, low self-esteem, loss of interests and pleasure, feeling miserable, sadness, loss, anger, and frustration that interferes with daily life for weeks or longer.

Symptoms of Depression

  • The symptoms of depression are many and varied. It can change a person’s self-perception, their life and the lives of the people around them. The symptoms of depression are as follow:
  • Restlessness, irritability, agitation, frustration
  • Fatigue and lack of Energy
  • Feelings of Hopelessness
  • Loss of Interests in actives that was once enjoyable.
  • Reduced Sex Drive
  • Insomnia, or excessive sleeping
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movement
  • Thoughts of death, dying, suicide
  • Crying spells
  • Physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
  • Feelings of worthless or guilt
  • Dramatic change in appetite causes dramatic change in weight up or down

What Causes Depression?

As there is no one common factor in determining where depression originates from, reasons are multiple that can cause depression. One is a biological factor; those who have family members who have or currently suffer from the disorder are more likely to suffer from the same condition. Since depression is a physical change in the brain, individuals’ biological difference is a potential cause for depression that will require more research. The neurotransmitters are chemicals linked to mood and these chemicals are thought to have a direct impact on depression. Any significant hormone changes could throw off the body’s hormone balance, which can trigger depression.

Some known hormone changes are the result of menopause, and thyroid problems.

Other causes of depression are events that happen in an individual’s life such as early childhood trauma, abuse or the loss of a parent. These events can cause mental strain that results in permanent changes in the brain that can make one more vulnerable to depression.
Factors contributing to depression are stressful events such as breaking up with a significant other, failing a class, illness in the family or death, divorce, job loss, social isolation, alcohol and/or drugs, personal health problems and/or chronic pains.

Diagnosis of Depression

If a health care provider believes a patient is suffering from depression, they will perform a physical exam, laboratory tests, and psychological evaluation. To be diagnosed with depression one must have five symptoms of depression that last for more than two weeks at a time, with at least one symptom being either a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure. The symptoms must be seen to cause problems in the day-to-day activities one would normally perform. Symptoms can’t be due to other causes such as bipolar disorder; individuals who suffer from mania and depression. Also, the symptoms can’t be the result of such things as drug abuse, alcoholism, taking of medication or having a medical condition that creates the same symptoms. Lastly, one who is grieving or suffering temporary sadness after the loss of a loved one will not be treated for depression.

Treatment of Depression

The treatments for depression that are used and have been found to be successful are the use of medications known as antidepressants and psychotherapy. Antidepressants affect the naturally occurring chemicals in the brain altering a person’s mood. Psychotherapy is helping the patient to understand depression, to watch for the signs, and to find ways to cope and adjust. In cognitive behavioral therapy, negative beliefs and behaviors are identified and are replaced with positive ones.

Other therapy that can be used is electroconvulsive therapy used to affect the neurotransmitter levels in the brain. This method offers immediate relief, but has side effects such as confusion, and in some cases memory loss. This form of therapy is usually used for those who don’t see positive results with medication and those with high risk of suicide.

Hospitalization is another option available for those with whom depression proves to be severe. Inpatient hospitalization it is for those who can’t take care of themselves and for those who might harm themselves.

Other less used treatments include transcranial magnetic stimulation and vagus nerve stimulation. Transcranial magnetic stimulation uses magnetic field to alter brain activity. Vagus nerve stimulation uses electrical impulses through a surgically implanted pulse generator to affect the centers of the brain that control mood.

How to Prevent and Manage Depression

There are ways to control depression, but there is no effective way to prevent it from occurring. These methods include controlling stress, boosting low self-esteem, creating a support group through friends and staying social, treatment of earliest sign to prevent depression from worsening, creating good sleep habits, exercising more, and talking about ones feelings.