Mental Health

Understanding Depression, and How to Deal With it

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Dealing with depression

Depression is classified as a common mental health disorder. It is estimated that about 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression (WHO,2017).
Depression is also known to be a leading cause of disability worldwide, and more often seen to result in suicide. It is necessary to understand that depression is different from normal mood changes or mood swings. When it is intense and prolong, it may affect your work routines leading to lower productivity and lost of precious time.
In addition, depression can also influence the worsening of some conditions. Typical example of such conditions may include:

Permit me to say that, feeling down at times is a normal part of life. What then is not normal is when you feel miserable and hopeless on a consistent basis. Difficult and turbulent times will come to mar our progress in life but we must be able to exercise a strong mental attitude over these things.
When depression is left untreated, it may last for months or years, however, if early treatment is sought, you can see significant improvement in symptoms in just a matter of weeks.

What Types of Depression exists?

Depending on the number and severity of symptoms, depressive episodes can be classified into two main forms. These are major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder.

Major Depressive Disorder

This form of disorder is the most severe form of depression. It is marked by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness that do not go away on their own. To be classified as one having major depressive disorder, you must experience five or more of the underlisted symptoms over a two-week period:

  • feeling depressed most of the day
  • loss of interest in most regular activities
  • significant weight loss or gain
  • sleeping too much or not being able to sleep
  • slowed thinking or movement
  • fatigue or low energy most days
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • loss of concentration or indecisiveness
  • recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

This form of depression is often described as mild but chronic. Symptoms do last for atleast two years. People suffering from this type of depression loose interest in normal activities, feel hopeless, lack productivity, and have low self-esteem.
Essentially, people with PDD may be regarded as critical and unable to have fun.

What Causes Depression?

Depression does not have a single cause. It can be triggered by a lot of variables Early childhood trauma can cause depression. This is because some events impact the way the body reacts to fear and stressful situations. Some people also develop depression because of their genetics. You are more likely to develop it if you have a family history of depression or another mood disorder.
Other common causes include:

  • brain structure: there’s a greater risk for depression if the frontal lobe of your brain is less active
  • medical conditions, such as a chronic illness, insomnia, chronic pain, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • a history of abusing drugs and alcohol

For some people too, they have no discernable cause for their depression.
Moreso, people who have a substance abuse problem also experience depression. In addition to these causes, other risk factors for depression include:

  • low self-esteem or being self-critical
  • personal history of mental illness
  • certain medications
  • stressful events, such as loss of a loved one, economic problems, or a divorce

How is Depression Diagnosed?

You must understand that there is not a single test that is used to diagnosed depression. That notwithstanding, your doctor can make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and a psychological evaluation. In most cases, he will ask series of questions about your moods, appetite, sleep pattern, activity level, and thoughts.
According to the National Alliance on Mental illness (2017), a depressive episode entails the following

  • Loss of interest or loss of pleasure in all activities
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Feeling agitated or feeling slowed down
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of low self-worth, guilt or shortcomings
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts or intentions

Note: Because depression can be linked to other health problems, your doctor may also conduct a physical examination and order blood work. Sometimes thyroid problems or a vitamin D deficiency can trigger symptoms of depression.

Treatment For Depression

Living with depression is a difficult thing, but treatment can help you cope with it. Talk to your doctor about possible options. It is possible to successfully manage symptoms with one form of treatment. It is also common to combine conventional and lifestyle therapies, including the following:
Medications: Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants, antianxiety, or antipsychotic medications.
Psychotherapy: Speaking with a therapist can help you learn new attitudes to cope with negative feelings. You may also benefit from family or group therapy sessions.
Light therapy: Exposure to doses of white light can help regulate mood and improve symptoms of depression.
Exercise: Decide to exercise atleast 30mins three to five days a week. This is because exercise can increase your body’s production of endorphins, which are hormones that improve your mood.
Avoid alcohol and drugs: Drinking or using drugs may make you feel better for a small time. But in the long run, these substances can worsen depression and anxiety symptoms.
Learn how to say no: Feeling overwhelmed can worsen anxiety and depression symptoms. Setting boundaries in your professional and personal life can help you feel better.
Take care of yourself: You can also improve symptoms of depression by taking care of yourself. This includes getting plenty of sleep (Dangers of insufficient sleep), eating a healthy diet, avoiding negative people, and participating in enjoyable activities.

Closing Remarks on Depression

Do not ignore symptoms of depression. If your mood doesn’t improve, seek medical help. Depression is a serious mental illness with risks of complications. Remember, it not only affects you, but also your loved ones. If left untreated, complications such as weight gain or weight loss, physical pain, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts may arise.

Do just once what others say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again. James R. Cook

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