Depression is not simply sadness. It involves profound symptoms that interfere with daily life, causing pain for not just yourself but those around you as well. Such conditions are characteristic of a loss of interest in life and motivation to pursue relationships and anything that brings happiness. Those struggling with depression are often unable to work or function. Around 350 million people across the globe are battling depression as they struggle to articulate their symptoms and understand them themselves. In fact, these people need counseling for depression.
- Major depression is characterized by severe symptoms that completely disrupt the basic norms of daily life, such as eating and sleeping; this may be a one-time or a recurring situation
- Persistent depressive disorder lasts for at least two years with a fluctuating intensity of symptoms
- Minor depression is of much shorter duration based on a few weeks, but can easily lead to major depression
- Psychotic depression (severe depression characterized by psychosis such as delusions and hallucinations)
- Postpartum depression (experienced by women post-birth)
- Seasonal affective disorder (onset of depression in the months of winter)
Depression symptoms vary depending upon the unique circumstances of each patient. However, there are general signs and symptoms which are common to all cases of depression. The most serious indication is the patients’ complete inability to enjoy things that formerly gave them pleasure. Other symptoms include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness
- Pessimism, irritability, and restlessness
- Constant feelings of guilt
- Fatigue and low energy
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Poor concentration and memory
- Suicidal thoughts and possible attempts
- Weight fluctuation
- Eating too much or too little
Symptoms may be influenced by the patient’s age and gender. Women seem to be more prone to exhibit feelings of low self-worth, sadness, and guilt, whereas men are more likely to seem fatigued and demonstrate a lack of interest.
Young children can also suffer from depression, displaying feelings of sadness, irritability, and hopelessness. On the other hand, teens are more prone to having symptoms such as anxiety, anger, and often withdrawal from their friends and activities. In the case of children and teens, depression may further be associated with ADHD and other mental health disorders.
It is often difficult to diagnose depression in older patients because some of their symptoms may accompany other possible illnesses, and they often tend to feel unhappy with life in general and reluctant to try new activities.
Depression can arise due to one or a combination of various genetic, environmental, biological, and psychological causes. There are many reasons for the onset of depression, and they include the following:
- Family history
- Childhood trauma
- Traumatic events
- Isolation or loneliness
- Prior history
- Serious or chronic illness
- Substance abuse
- Medications such as sleeping pills or beta-blockers
The treatment of depression usually involves a combination of psychotherapy (cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy) and medication. Complementary therapies, such as those involving yoga, meditation, acupuncture, nutritional guidance, and exercise, are also implemented in accordance with individual needs.