Depression (Major Depressive Disorder): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

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Depression (Major Depressive Disorder): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Depression is a mood disorder, also known as a major depressive disorder or clinical depression, that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. This depressive disorder affects the way one feels, thinks and behaves, and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

Major depression is an episode of sadness, along with other symptoms, that lasts for at least two consecutive weeks and is severe enough to interrupt daily activities. It is important to know that depression is not a sign of weakness or negativity; it is a major public health problem and a treatable medical condition.

Around 2 to 8 percent of adults with major depression die by suicide and about 50% of people who die by suicide, have a history of depression or another mood disorder.

This depressive disorder is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors with risk factors including family history of the condition, major life changes, certain medications, chronic health problems, and substance abuse. The diagnosis is based on the person’s reported experiences and a mental status examination. There is no laboratory test for diagnosing it.

People are treated with counseling and antidepressant medication. Depression had affected approximately 216 million people in 2015. Females are affected about twice as often as males; the reason being hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.

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How Does Depression Affect Your Body?

Depression affects the body the same way chronic stress does. Depression is associated with changes in sleep patterns, appetite, body weight, and lack of sexual desire or functioning. It can increase the sensitivity to pain and is even linked to heart disease. Many of these effects on the body occur simultaneously. It is probably best to think that the link between depression and its associated effects on the body is cyclic.

What Are The Causes of Depression?

  • Biological differences – People with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains, though the significance of these changes is still uncertain.
  • Brain chemistry – Neurotransmitters likely play a role in depression.
  • Hormones – Hormonal changes may be involved in causing or triggering depression.
  • Inherited traits – Depression is more common in people who have a family history of it.
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What Are The Risk Factors of Depression?

  • Personality traits – Low self-esteem, and being excessively dependent, self-critical or pessimistic, may cause depression in later life.
  • Traumatic or stressful events – Physical or sexual abuse, the death of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or financial problems can cause depression.
  • Family history – Family or relatives with a history of depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism or suicide may increase the chances of depression.
  • Medical history – History of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorder, eating disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder can also cause depression.
  • Abuse of alcohol or recreational drugs – Abuse of alcohol increases the risk of depression.
  • Serious or chronic illness – Some people often feel depressed if they have life-threatening diseases like cancer, stroke, chronic pain or heart disease.
  • Certain medications – Some medicines such as high blood pressure medications or sleeping pills can cause depression.
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What Are The Symptoms of Depression?

A depressed person often feels the following:

  • A feeling of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts and frustration (even over small matters)
  • Loss of interest in normal activities, such as hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances (mostly insomnia or excessive sleepiness)
  • Tiredness and lack of energy for even small tasks
  • Reduced appetite and loss of weight or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Feeling worthlessness or guilty, and fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble in concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts

The symptoms of depression in children and teens include the following:

  • Sadness, irritability, and clinginess
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Being underweight
  • Negativity, worthlessness, anger, poor performance, extreme sensitivity, usage of alcohol and drugs, self-harm, loss of interest in normal activities, and avoiding social interaction
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How is Depression Diagnosed?

  • Physical exam – During a physical exam, questions about your health and other day-to-day activities are asked.
  • Lab tests – A blood test can be performed to check blood count or a thyroid test can be conducted to ensure proper body functioning.
  • Psychiatric evaluation – Symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns are often asked by a mental health professional.
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How to Prevent And Control Depression?

  • Control stress and boost your self-esteem
  • Talk to family and friends, especially in times of crisis, to help you weather rough spells
  • Get treatment at the earliest to help prevent depression from worsening
  • Get a long-term maintenance treatment to help prevent a relapse of symptoms

Treatment of Depression – Allopathic Treatment

Medications –

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – SSRIs are considered safer and generally cause fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants. These include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), sertraline (Zoloft) and vilazodone (Viibryd).
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) – These include duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor XR), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Khedezla) and levomilnacipran (Fetzima).
  • Atypical antidepressants – These medications include bupropion (Wellbutrin XL, Wellbutrin SR, Aplenzin, Forfivo XL), mirtazapine (Remeron), nefazodone, trazodone and vortioxetine (Trintellix).
  • Tricyclic antidepressants – These drugs can be very effective, but tend to cause more-severe side effects than newer antidepressants. Tricyclics include imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), amitriptyline, doxepin, trimipramine (Surmontil), desipramine (Norpramin) and protriptyline (Vivactil).
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) – Tranylcypromine (Parnate), phenelzine (Nardil) and isocarboxazid (Marplan) may be prescribed when other drugs haven’t worked because they can have serious side effects. MAOIs require a strict diet because of dangerous interactions with foods such as certain cheeses, pickles, wines, some medications, and herbal supplements.
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Treatment of Depression – Homeopathic Treatment

  • Aurum metallicum – This is indicated for people who have feelings of total helplessness and work too hard, often to achieve impractical goals.
  • Calcarea carbonica – This may be beneficial for overbearing depression.
  • Stannum metallicum – Stannum metallicum is given to those who are depressed, anxious, and often feel hopeless. These people remain low-spirited throughout the day, are often discouraged, and want to cry, even though crying makes them feel worse.
  • Mercurius solubilis hahnemanni – This is indicated in people with wild mood swings, from happy to sad, and often feel very irritable.

Depression – Lifestyle Tips

  • Stick to your treatment plan; attend psychotherapy sessions or appointments
  • Pay attention to warning signs; any behavioral change should not be neglected
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Eat healthy food and exercise regularly

What Are The Recommended Exercises For a Person With Depression?

The following exercises are recommended for a person with suffering from depression:

  • Acupuncture
  • Relaxation techniques such as yoga or tai chi
  • Meditation
  • Guided imagery
  • Massage therapy
  • Music or art therapy
  • Spirituality
  • Aerobic exercise

Depression & Pregnancy- Things to Know

  • During pregnancy, hormone changes can affect the chemicals in the brain, which are directly related to depression and anxiety.
  • If left untreated, it can lead to poor nutrition, drinking, smoking, and suicidal behavior, which can then cause premature birth, low birth weight, and developmental problems.
  • Some antidepressants taken during pregnancy may pose an increased health risk to your unborn child or nursing child.

Common Complications Related to Depression

One can face the following common complications due to depression:

  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Heart disease and diabetes
  • Pain or physical illness
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Anxiety, panic disorder or social phobia
  • Social isolation
  • Suicidal feelings, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Self-mutilation, such as cutting
  • Premature death from medical conditions

FAQs

Q. Is depression a mental illness?

A. Yes, clinical depression is a serious, but treatable mental illness; also, depression is not a personal weakness.

Q. Do children get depressed?

A. Yes, children get depressed because they are subjected to the same factors that cause depression in adults, which include changes in physical health, life events, heredity, environment, and chemical disturbances in the brain.

Q. Can a lack of sleep cause depression?

A. No, lack of sleep alone cannot cause depression. However, it can facilitate depression.

Q. Why are women more likely to get depression?

A. Change in hormone levels that women experience, is one of the causes of women getting depressed more than men.

Q. Will someone who has had depression get it again?

A. A history of major depression does put a person at risk for future episodes, but not everyone who has recovered from depression experiences it again.

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