Depression is a state of the mind that negatively affects feelings, thoughts and actions. Depression is a term used very loosely in normal language as a synonym to being sad. However, in medical world, depression is a serious mental disorder, which requires prompt diagnosis and an effective treatment; to enable the patients cope with the symptoms and regain living a normal life. Feelings like sadness, hopelessness, failure, lack of self esteem and a personal loss could culminate into the symptoms of clinical depression. When these feelings becoming intense lasting for days to weeks, they can begin to hamper an individual’s normal lifestyle. However, the good news is that depression can be treated.
Causes that could lead to depression:
Depression can be looked at as a complex disease, since the exact causes of the disease remain unknown. However, there are a number of reasons that are attributed to depression. From a serious illness to a personal loss to genetics, depression can be a result of a number of factors. Here are few of the most common causes found to trigger depression in individuals:
An abuse of any kind in the life of an individual such as a physical abuse, sexual abuse or an emotional abuse can put one at a risk of undergoing depression later in life.
Certain medications have side effects that could be associated with the risks of clinical depression. Drugs like the antiviral drug interferon-alpha, and corticosteroids, are known to put one at the risk of acquiring depression.
Personal conflicts, family feuds and disharmony among friends is a normal phenomena in life; however some people who have biological vulnerability may develop Depression as a consequence of the above mentioned situations.
There is always a risk of depression associated with death or loss of a loved one. While most people are able to cope with such a loss, in some cases these episodes break a person emotionally leading to an increased risk of depression.
Heredity & Genes:
Research says there could be an association between depression and genes. Risk of depression
increases among those with a family history of depression. The genetics involved in depression are more complex as compared to other genetic diseases like Huntington’s chorea or cystic fibrosis. In case of a disease like depression, the cause is not attributed to a single gene but to a number of genes each of which exert small effects that increase the risk.
In many cases change of any kind brings about a risk of depression. Even happy events in life such as a new job, graduation, marriage or child birth that bring about a change in life; can bring about signs of depression for a few. Similarly, a change of place, loss of job or income, divorce or retirement can be depressing for many. However, for depression to be termed as clinical depression the response to these stressful events has to be beyond normal or obvious.
Problems associated with isolation due to serious illness or personal problems or being outcast from the family or a group can eventually lead to higher risks of depression.
Long term illnesses:
A number of illnesses that are long term can eventually lead to depression. This depression could be related to the management of the disease and in some cases triggered as an effect the disease has on the body.
Nearly 30% of people who are addicted to substance abuse are also known to have symptoms of clinical depression.
Clinical impact of depression:
According to scientific research, there is a noted difference in the brains of people suffering from clinical depression and those who are not. The difference is mainly noted in the hippocampus, which is a small part of the brain that is responsible for storing memories. This hippocampus appears to be smaller in people with clinical depression. A smaller hippocampus indicates fewer serotonin receptors which are brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters perform the function of transmitting messages across circuits that connect various regions of the brain that are responsible for processing emotions. According to research conducted to understand why hippocampus is smaller in people with depression, there have been findings that report an excess production of hormone cortisol being produced in excess which has a toxic or shrinking effect on the development of hippocampus. Some experts however also believe that people with signs of depression are born with smaller hippocampus pushing them towards the risk of the disease. The impact of depression on the brain is hence considered complex there are multiple factors associated with the disease.
Genetic factors associated with depression
Depression and its symptoms are often known to run in the family. If not a whole, there certainly is a partial association of genetic factor and depression. Children, siblings, and parents of individuals who have been suffering from depression are somewhere more likely to see signs of depressions as compared to the general population. The genetic aspect of depression is the involvement of multiple genes interacting with each other in a different way which leads to various types of depression to run in families. In other words, for depression with is associated with a genetic cause, there are a number of genes that lead towards different types of depression upon interacting with the environment.
Symptoms of depression
There are a number of symptoms that are indicative of depression in an individual. Some symptoms are early which help in early diagnosis of the treatment, while some symptoms are seen when the disease gets the better of the individual. The most important thing to remember in depression is it is important to talk it out. In most cases people suffering from the signs of depression go into isolation and are unable to express what they are going through which delays medical attention that can help in faster treatment. Not getting treating for depression can have serious life threatening issues, with about one of 10 people suffering from depression, commit suicide. Here are some of the warning signs of depression to look out for:
• Continuously feeling low or sad;
• Feeling pessimistic or negative
• Anxious or empty thoughts clouding the mind
• Having violent or suicidal thoughts.
• Loss of appetite or binge eating
• Constant feeling of fatigue
• Insomnia or disturbed sleep
• Continuous aches all over the body
• Feeling of restlessness
• Changes in menstrual cycle in women.
• not able to perform at work
• withdrawal moving towards isolation
• unable to pursue hobbies or activities that were once interesting
•undergoing stress in managing relationships
Depression can progress gradually or come in suddenly, but the challenge is to notice the symptoms on time from preventing the disease to worsen.
Most patients are skeptical about visiting a doctor or talking about their depression symptoms due to the fear of being judged. Depression is a mental state that is curable when one seeks medical attention on time. Here is what to expect at the time of diagnosing a medical condition as depression.
To diagnose a medical condition associated with depression, there aren’t many clinical tests that a doctor can carry out. Instead, the patient is the best tool the doctor has in hand; and hence a diagnosis is a series of questions and answers between the doctor and patient that help to conclude the symptoms to be that of depression.
The key to diagnosing depression effectively, is to analyze the symptoms that the patient is complaining about. The doctor a doctor may use a series of standard questions to diagnose a medical condition as depression.
A physical examination is often conducted by the doctor that reveals the patient’s overall health. During this examination the doctor can find about the diseases that the patient is suffering with, some of which may be the cause of his depression as well.
During the question answer session, the doctor tries to draw out a behavioral pattern that could be an indicative of depression symptoms. This is particularly helpful as depressed individuals are known to have erratic and fluctuating behaviors such as irritation, agitated and violent, loss of appetite or excessive eating. Many a times internally a person may be undergoing depression but to see them clinically could get difficult.
In the diagnosis stage the doctor tries to get the patient’s family history that could be indicative of depression in the family.
The doctor could suggest a couple of lab tests to rule out the signs of depression, such as tests that are related to hormones, since hormonal issues like hypothyroidism could result in depression.
As a patient, you could help your doctor best in arriving at a correct diagnosis. Simple things like noting down your symptoms, behavioral behavioral changes, medications, prolonged illnesses, family history of depression, dietary supplements taken etc; can help the diagnose understand the condition better and arrive at an appropriate diagnosis.
Is there a treatment available for depression?
Although depression is a serious mental disorder, the good news is that it can be treated with in time
diagnosis and medications. Here are a few ways that depression symptoms are treated for:
• Medications: There are a number of medications available to treat different types of depression. However, prescribing medications for depression can be dedicating due to the underlying diseases a patient maybe suffering with. Medical conditions such as kidney diseases, heart disease or liver disease could make antidepressant class of drugs unsafe for the practitioners to prescribe. Hence the doctor needs to carefully understand the physical health condition of the patient and prescribe drugs accordingly.
• Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” is considered to be the most effective treatment for clinical depression. However in case of severe depression symptoms this therapy needs to complemented with medications to be effective in treatment.
• Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): When medications do not work to ease out the symptoms of depression, there are other methods which are known as Brain stimulations techniques like electroconvulsive therapy that are known to be effective. These techniques are helpful in treating depression cases that have not responded to other methods of treatment like medications and psychotherapy.
• Other methods: In addition to the above methods, therapies such as yoga and hypnosis are also known to work for patients as a complimentary aid for the main line of treatment.
Matt Bailey is a noted writer, content marketer and Social Strategist at FindaTopDoc
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