While it is very normal for a person to feel sad sometimes, it becomes a problem if a person is sad most of the time, so much so that it affects the individual’s daily functions at home and work. Such an individual might suffering from depression. Depression is a mood disorder that manifest as a constant feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities that one once delighted in doing. Also called clinical depression, it influences one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors, resulting in a variety of emotional and physical problems. It is normal to see such individuals struggling to cope with normal daily activities and may start to feel worthless and even consider suicide.
1. What Are The Symptoms of Depression?
It is nearly impossible for individuals with depression to experience similar symptoms. The severity, frequency and duration of depression are influenced by the individual as well as his type of illness. That being said, the common symptoms people with depression experience include:
- Trouble concentrating, recalling details, and making good decisions
- Tiredness and decreased energy
- Having moods of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness, and/or pessimism
- Poor sleeping patterns or excessive sleeping
- Irritability and restlessness
- Lack of interest in activities or hobbies that were once loved
- Feeling like life is worthless
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Libido disorders: decreased sexual appetite, impotence or frigidity
- Digestive disorders: diarrhea or constipation, anorexia, gastralgia, saburral state of the digestive tract
- Continuous aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not resolve with medications
- Constant sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Cardiovascular disorders: palpitations, flushing, hypotension and bradycardia in severe forms
- Suicidal thoughts attempts
These symptoms may vary from person to person.
2. What Are The Types of Depression?
There are several types of depression including:
2.1) Major depression
It is a type of severe depression, characterized by extreme weariness, loss of desire and abandonment of normal activities, an inferiority complex that develops and a doubt about his abilities
Unlike a passing depression, major depression can have serious consequences on the person’s thoughts, behavior, mood and health. More than half of people who have suffered from major depression experience a relapse into depression with varying degrees of intensity. Without treatment, the severity of major depression can intensify over time and can lead to the Major Depressive Disorder ‘MDD’ or suicide.
What Is Major Depressive Disorder?
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) refers to a situation where a person experiences continuous and strong feelings of sadness over a long period of time than it should be. It is the severest form of depression. It is a very important medical illness that negatively affects several aspects of one’s life. It affects behavior, emotions, and a host of physical functions including appetite and sleep. Those who have this condition lose interest in past hobbies and activities, and may even consider suicide. MDD is one of the most prevalent mental disorders in the US with almost 7 million Americans above 18 have had at least an episode of MDD each year.
Causes of Major Depressive Disorder:
Even though the exact cause is not known, a lot of factors predispose a person to this condition. There can be a mix of genetic and stress that alters the brain chemistry and decrease its power to maintain a person’s mood. Furthermore, fluctuation in body hormones may also influence the onset of MDD. Other factors that can trigger MDD include:
- Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
- A variety of medical conditions, such as cancer or hypothyroidism
- Specific medications, including steroids
2.2) Persistent depressive disorder
When the depressive episode recurs, we talk about persistent depressive disorder or major depressive disorder. It begins most often in adolescence or early adulthood. People with this type of recurrent depression will undergo depressive phases that can last months, even years, alternating with normal mood phases. This type of depressive disorder is very disabling and unipolar (there is therefore no manic or hypomanic phase).
2.3) Bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive disease or circular madness) is a severe mental illness and is characterized by an exaggerated alternation of depressive and manic periods. Between these two phases, the person regains a normal state in everyday life. Bipolar depression occurs in several degrees. Follow-up is important because it is one of the most severe pathologies leading to frequent suicide risks.
The word dysthymia comes from the Greek and means “evil mood”. Dysthymia is a mood disorder or an affective disorder. This is a minor chronic depression that lasts a long time. It is unipolar and affects the functioning of the person but in a less incapacitating way. The physical and psychological symptoms of dysthymic disorder are lower than those found in people with major depressive disorder or recurrent depression.
2.5) Psychotic depression
Psychotic depression corresponds to a depressive state combined with psychotic manifestations.
The first one who described the disease is Dr. Emil Kraepelin, a German psychiatrist, at the end of the 19th century.
Individuals suffering from psychotic depression exhibit symptoms of major depression along with those of psychosis, such as:
- delusions: devaluation, feelings of inability, feeling guilty, hypochondria: (impression of suffering from a serious organic disease);
- auditory hallucinations;
- sometimes also a depressive stupor, which corresponds to a psychomotor slowdown.
People suffering from psychotic depression almost always need psychiatric care in hospitals. Because episodes of this kind of depression are generally more disabling and the risk of suicide is big.
2.6) Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder is a syndrome of depression that begins and ends at the same time every year. There are two types of seasonal affective disorder: autumn and summer. This type of depression is very common during the fall and winter months. With a time of sun and light that decreases during the fall and winter, the brain no longer produces enough serotonin, the neurotransmitter of our brain that relays messages from one area of the brain to another and effects directly the brain cells related to mood, sexual desire, appetite, sleep and many other functions. During the summer and spring months, the climatic conditions change and the seasonal disorder goes away.
The US National Institute of Health estimates that 36 million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder in the fall.
2.7) Atypical depression
It is a kind of depression that is rather paradoxical, since, as the name suggests, the symptoms are atypical. The term “atypical” depression comes from the fact that many symptoms of this depression are the reverse of those of major depression. For example, people who suffer from atypical depression are able to face the outside world and give the impression that everything is going well. They will feel very good for a while during the announcement of good news but also very badly at the slightest annoyance or criticism.
2.8) ‘Situational’ depression
This term is not an official term in psychiatry. However, it refers to a situation where someone develops symptoms of depression after experiencing a traumatic or stressful event such as a death in your family, a divorce, an accident or losing your job.
2.9) Peripartum (Postpartum) depression
This is depressions that women develop in the weeks to months following childbirth. It is commonly known as the “babyblues”, and affects 10 to 15% of young mothers. It is due to the hormonal upset caused by pregnancy and especially to the new responsibilities that the young mother must now face.
2.10) Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a more extreme or severe form of premenstrual syndrome. The hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle result in: mood swings, tiredness, headaches, body aches, menstrual cramps, breast pain, abdominal bloating, etc.
There are more than 100 symptoms that characterize the PMS and no two women suffer a similar range of symptoms. Other symptoms can vary from one month to another many women.
Women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder have symptoms of severe depression, irritability and tension just before their periods. This depression can affect 3-8% of women.
3. Risk Factors for Depression
Depression is not a disease that affects only adults but it is a pathology that can also develop in children and adolescents. It can have disastrous consequences on their daily lives but also on their future. Here are some factors that may cause or aggravate depression:
3.1) The gender
The first discrimination of depression concerns sex. Before puberty, girls and boys are equal in the face of depression. But at puberty, the gap widens and women are affected twice as much as men. This is due in part to the body’s response to stress, and the frequent hormonal imbalances they present. Another explanation is the difference in education that varies by gender.
3.2) Hereditary factors
The gene of depression does not exist. After years of research, researchers now talk about genetic vulnerabilities with a multitude of genes likely to be involved. Thus, the hereditary factor also plays an important role, so if one has already observed a case of nervous depression in its antecedents, the chances of being affected will increase from about 15% to nearly 40%.
3.3) Family and environmental factors
The family context with its emotional and educational environment plays a fundamental role in the initiation of psychological disturbances, such as quarrels between parents, conflicts and violence, and even their immaturity which does not enable them to detect in their children signs of moral suffering and contributes to an individual’s vulnerability to depression. Children of of this context have a four times higher risk of developing an affective disorder. But it is mostly teenagers confronted with this kind of family environment that are most likely to fall into depression a few years later.
Family environment and relationships thus play a role as risk factors for falling in deperssion.
3.4) Personal history and childhood injury
Depression is a highly recurrent pathology. Anyone who has experienced a depressive episode must remain vigilant and learn to spot signs of a possible relapse.
Additionally, negative life events in childhood can obviously become vulnerable to adulthood, such as loss of a parent, abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional deficiencies.
3.5) Career problems and stressful events
Among the risk factors of depression the hard blows of life and sad events (emotional or any others) such as a break in love or a bankruptcy. The feeling of sadness that follows these events affects many people today. This feeling is a mixture of anxiety, loneliness and fear that prevents the affected individual from leading his or her life serenely and can mostly transformed into depression.
The life events that are most involved in triggering depression are:
- Death of a loved one
- Major financial problem, bankruptcy
- Dismissal, unemployment
- Spousal infidelity, divorce, spousal separation
- Unwanted pregnancy, abortion, miscarriage
- Failure in an exam
- Moving, changing schools
3.6) Work-related issues
Stress is the body’s response to all the constraints of its physical, emotional and social environment. On the one hand, it turns fatigue into energy for workaholics, and on the other hand, it can lead to a “burn-out”.
Workplace stress is also a sign of frustration or aggression. When the work does not offer personal recognition, the feeling of dissatisfaction takes over and the depression is never far away.
The labor market also plays a role in depression. In a society where work is the main vector of identity, losing one’s job constitutes a narcissistic wound, more or less profound, depending on the individual.
Finally, the need to progress in working life can also be a source of suffering. Those who fail to rise in the hierarchy like their colleagues are tempted to devalue themselves, to reproach themselves for their lack of initiative. Finally, they think they are worth less than others and feel excluded.
3.7) Chronic diseases
The occurrence of the depressive episode is often related to the loss of good health and that of autonomy. Chronic diseases will bring unbelievable difficulties and challenges to daily life, and prevent activities appreciated in the past from being enjoyed today. These diseases are generally associated with an increased risk for depression. In addition, the side effects of drugs taken for these diseases can trigger feelings of depression.
Many diseases are involved including a lot of chronic and debilitating somatic diseases like neurological disorders (Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, etc.), endocrine diseases (thyroid disorders, diabetes), those directly or indirectly affecting the brain, cancers, AIDS, etc.
In addition, psychic diseases such as anxiety disorders, especially social phobias and panic disorders are clearly risk factors for depression.
3.8) Addiction to alcohol and stimulants
Not only is excessive alcohol consumption directly killing (liver disease, cancers, etc.), but also indirectly. Indeed, because of its disinhibiting effects, alcohol has the following effects:
- Alcohol abuse increases the effects of depression, as well as impulsivity and aggression
- Alcohol is often used as a means of suicide.
In addition, consuming excitants excessively, such as caffeine, tobacco, marijuana, ectasia, drugs, etc. increases the severity of symptoms of depression by accentuating their frequency and severity.
Depression is one of the most common mental pathologies in the world, but it is also one of the least treated psychological disorders. Shame, fear or ignorance of solutions, depressive persons often find it difficult to find the help they need. It is therefore important to know how to identify the symptoms of nervous breakdown, and to understand where it can come from. Anyway, whether it’s a major depression or a little depression, do not hesitate to talk about it either to your entourage or to a psychologist: talking about depression is the first step towards the exit of this state.
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