What is Depression?
“What is depression?” is a question I am often asked and I’ve found that of most concern is understanding the difference between a short-lived period of sadness perhaps in reaction to a loss or stressful event and true clinical depression. Since depression can be a very serious illness with consequences such as suicide; it is important to know whether you, a child or relative can be treated naturally or needs to consult with a doctor or psychiatrist.
Depression and how does it affect you? Clinical depression causes a variety of symptoms (mental, emotional and physical) and significantly impairs daily functioning and reactions to normal life events. It occurs in 15-25% of the population. Some people may experience one episode of severe depression in their lives, while others may have several. Some people may experience chronic low grade depression over an entire lifetime and still others may experience both.
The symptoms of depression are:
- Loss of interest in activities and low motivation.
- Impaired thinking or concentration.
- Low self-esteem (feeling worthless and guilty).
- Sadness, tearfulness or uncontrollable crying.
- Disturbed sleep (insomnia, early waking, and restlessness).
- Low libido.
- Inability to feel pleasure.
- Loss of appetite or increased appetite and changes in weight.
- Physical aches and pains.
Depression can occur in very young children and teens and in this case professional help should be sought. Experts note that it can be notoriously difficult to determine what causes depression in these young people but agree that it is imperative to seek help as soon as a problem is noted.
What is Depression Caused By?
Depression can have a number of causes and these causes will determine how it should be treated. Some causes are:
- Pregnancy and childbirth: Some women find that the hormonal changes of pregnancy cause depression or worsen it. Severe or major post-partum depression is experienced by about 10% of women and can occur anywhere from twenty-four hours to several months after childbirth. Mild depression is very common and occurs in about 50% of new mothers due to hormonal changes and the considerable adjustments new mothers face.
- Bipolar disorder: Clinical depression can form part of bipolar disorder. This illness is characterised by periods of extreme elation (excitement and elation) coupled with periods of very low or depressed mood, which usually alternate.
- Chemical imbalance: Often depression is not linked to any obvious cause or event. This is known as endogenous depression. If the depression is very severe psychoses can result and the person may not be able to distinguish reality from fantasy.
- Medical conditions: What is depression linked to? Chronic illnesses like hypo or hyperthyroidism, diabetes, heart, liver and adrenal problems or cancerous tumours can cause or worsen depression. Stroke victims also may experience significant depression.
How is Depression Treated?
- Medication: In severe cases some pharmaceutical intervention may be required in the short term. When depression is milder or the result of a recent trauma it is very possible to try to treat it with natural medicine.
- Individual therapy: Many patients have been helped by undergoing therapy with a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist. This may be combined with medications.
- Group or community therapy: This may include help finding accommodation, employment, affording medications. The main focus is on acceptance and support of depression sufferers.
Major depression is very serious and I would be remiss if I didn’t advise you to seek professional help. I would advise that if your depression is very severe or if you, a child or relative has any thoughts of suicide, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
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