What is depression?
Depression is a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way—this is according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary. Most people go through this stage without rightly knowing what’s happening to them. And some others simply live in denial. But this should not be treated with levity as depression carries a high risk of suicide. People suffering from depression have a lower quality of life and a higher risk of suicide than those without depression, making it all the more difficult to ignore.
What then are the signs of depression?
The different genders show signs of depression in various ways. In men, anger or lashing out may be an early sign of depression in men while in women depression is often seen with eating disorders and anxiety.
But generally, depression expresses itself via the following ways:
1. Continuous sadness, anxiety, emptiness.
It begins to feel as if a gloomy cloud has been cast over such a one, and do whatever they might, it seems impossible to shake it off. They also become very agitated; showing off unending worries even over the littlest of things. They get easily teared up—easily given to crying spells, becoming excessively weepy or becoming teary-eyed.
2. Feelings of hopelessness.
They gradually begin to lose the desire for living. With each dawning day, they feel more hopeless, pessimistic, worthless and helpless. They are also constantly plagued with feelings of guilt. They begin to take the personal blame for every negative thing that happens around them.
Another sign of depression is the continuous feeling of fatigue. Such a one begins to tire very easily. They start to feel as if life is moving at a very slow pace.
4. Loss of interest in hobbies.
They stop enjoying activities that once made them glad, and left them excited. They no longer see the fun in any leisure visit. Their hobbies then begin to feel like a chore.
They become increasingly restless and easily irritable. They begin to nag excessively at others. Pranks and jokes they once laughed over, begins to grateful at their nerves. They switch from their fun loving selves, to annoying nags.
6. Difficulty concentrating.
They experience increased difficulty in concentrating on any task. It could also be tough to focus. Simple activities like reading a newspaper or watching TV becomes so hard. They equally find it difficult to make any lasting decisions and also, they usually end up forgetting the ones they’ve made.
7. Disturbed sleeping patterns.
They either begin to find it difficult to fall asleep at night (insomnia) or they begin to oversleep. And sometimes, they wake very early in the mornings. Generally, their sleeping pattern becomes messed up and the sleeping itself is hardly restful.
8. Disturbed eating patterns.
They swing between the two extremes—overeating and under-eating. With an increased loss of appetite, they eat too little resulting in weight loss. And for some, it is an increase in appetite; they begin to eat too much and this results in weight gain. They sometimes eat to make themselves feel better and other times, the lack of desire for life makes them not want to eat.
9. Thoughts of death.
They begin to dwell greatly on thoughts of death. It begins to take over their conversations. For those that express themselves in arts, every painting, poem, music or story carries with it, the subtle underlying morbidity. They also go further to begin considering suicide and sometimes, there are actual suicide attempts.
10. Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, chronic pain and digestive disorders. It often goes beyond the psychological feelings and begins to manifest in their physical health and wellness.
If you notice these signs and symptoms in yourself, or in your loved ones, you should quickly consider a visit to your hospital. This should not be trivialized. The symptoms of depression, if not treated, can last for about nine months to a year. Talking with a mental health counselor or doctor can help prevent things from getting worse, especially if your symptoms stay for any length of time.
Some precursors to (or causes of) depression
The way certain nerve pathways or circuits in the brain send information may not work properly. Scans have shown that the parts of the brain involved in mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior look different when one is depressed, but scientists don’t really know why.
Depression is not just the result of a ‘chemical imbalance’, that is, having too much or not enough of a particular chemical found in the brain. It goes beyond that, as there are diverse causes of depression. Other factors such as negative life experiences, genetic vulnerability, substance intake—drugs, alcohol—can equally affect the way the brain controls mood change.
Depression can also run in families, but that doesn’t mean one will develop depression just because a relative is going through it. It is possible to have the condition even if no one else in your family has it.
Some people are likely to be more at risk of depression because of their personality. For instance, if they are given to excessive worry, have very low self-esteem, are drawn to doing things perfectly, are emotional unstable, are sensitive to criticism and tone of criticizing themselves.
It’s worth pointing out, that feeling depressed doesn’t mean you have depression. Depression doesn’t not only involve fickle changes in mood, but goes further to involve changes in sleep, energy, appetite, concentration, and motivation.
What can help one get over depression?
Currently, there are lots of treatments that can help. They include antidepressants and talk therapy. Also, the support, backing and love from family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and support groups, do go a great long way to help.
Efficient treatment can stimulate the growth of new nerve cells in circuits that regulate the moods, and this is thought to play a critical part in recovering from the most severe episodes of depression.