More often than not, people equate depression with sadness. So is it safe to say since we have all been sad, therefore we have all been depressed? No! Depression is more than just sadness. Sadness is a normal human response to perceived unfavorable situations. This is one of the myths debunked on 18 myths of depression revealed.
While sadness may lead to depression, depression needs to fulfil these minimum criteria
- – Sad mood
- – Loss of energy even for simple tasks
- – Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- – These feelings must have persisted for at least two weeks
- – One of these areas is affected – personal life, physical health, relationships, job, social engagement, sexual life, and so on.
Depression (also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness, and affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves (cognitive, emotional, and behavioral). It is associated with a variety of emotional and physical challenges. Depression may occur once in a life time for some people, but it can be a series of multiple episodes for others.
This is a list, not exhaustive, of symptoms that a depressed person may feel most of the day, almost every day. It is important to note that only a few of these symptoms are required to be diagnosis.
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness.
- Angry outburst, irritability or frustration even over small matters.
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
- Low libido or high libido.
- Irregular sleep patterns – too much sleep or too little sleep.
- Reduced appetite (leading to weight loss) or increased cravings for food (leading to weight gain).
- Feeling miserable or unhappy without knowing why.
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements.
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame.
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions or remembering things.
- Unexplained physical symptoms, such as back pains or headaches.
- Often wanting to stay at home, rather than going out to socialize or doing new things.
- Fatigue and loss of energy most of the time.
- Excessive demonstration of energy such as agitation, hyperactivity, and restlessness may indicate an underlying depression that is being concealed.
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide, including thoughts to hurt a loved one or any other person.
There is no single known factor that has been identified to be the cause of depression. What we have is a blend.
Hereditary: Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition.
Genetic Variation: Genetic variation is highly considered as a cause of depression. There are hypotheses that there is a particular genetic makeup responsible for depression, however, this gene hasn’t been identified.
Hormones: Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may be involved in causing depression. Hormone changes during menstruation and pregnancy are most notable; one of the possible reasons why depression is more common in women.
Brain Chemistry: Neurotransmitters are implicated in the cause of depression. One of the notable ones is Serotonin, also called the happy hormone. A low concentrate in the brain synapses has been identified as a cause.
Biological Structure: A wave of new research point to certain considerations as the cause of depression such as faulty brain wiring in the frontal lobes, cell shrinkage in the hippocampus region of the brain.
A risk factor is any attribute, characteristic, or exposure of an individual that increases the likelihood of developing an ailment, in this case depression.
- Personal history of depression.
- Blood relatives’ history of depression, bipolar or any other mood disorder.
- Traumatic or stressful events including childhood trauma.
- Day to day un-managed stress.
- Unique personality traits such as low self esteem, fear of negative evaluation.
- Abuse of Alcohol or other drugs such as Marijuana.
- Serious or chronic illness such as Cancer.
- Certain medications such as some high blood pressure medications.
Types of Depression
Just as there is no one cause, there isn’t only one type. It can take many forms. It can also be mild, moderate, or severe. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders lists nine distinct types:
1. Major depression: This is the most common type and may affect areas such as work, academics, relationships, recreational activities and so on. Often, people with major depression experience recurrent episodes throughout their lives, but at other times only once. It is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, lack of interest, and low energy with a series of negative emotions.
2. Dysthymia: This is also called persistent depressive disorder (PDD) and involves a persistent low mood over a long period of time, even up to a year or more. It less intense when compared to major depression, with fewer symptoms than major depression. It could be described as feeling like you’re living on autopilot. Persons with Dysthemia may experience symptoms for many years before it is recognized, as a result they may believe it is part of who they are.
3. Seasonal Affective Disorder: This is a type related to the changes in the four seasons and most notable to manifest during autumn and winter months, when days are shorter with lower amount of natural sunlight.
4. Atypical Depression: Atypical depression share many typical symptoms with major depression or dysthymia, however, individuals experience improved mood when encountering pleasurable events. This type is regarded as a sub-type of major depression or dysthymia. Moods are strongly reactive to environment circumstances and extremely sensitive to rejection, and usually experience depression first at their teenage years.
5. Bipolar Disorder: This is also called Manic Depressive Disorder, and involves unusual shifts in mood and energy levels – periods of extreme low (depression) and extreme high (mania)/
6. Psychotic Depression: This is a severe type that is usually accompanied with psychotic symptoms – hallucination and/or delusions.
7. Postpartum Depression (PPD): This form is related to childbirth and can occur in both sexes. Also, research has demonstrated that parents who adopt may experience some symptoms of postpartum depression. You can get help for PPD here
8. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: This is form of that shows up during the second half of the menstrual cycle. It affects the individual’s ability to function normally. It ranges from mild to severe.
9. Situational Depression: This is a form that is triggered by a life-changing event such a death of loved one, loss of job, relationships challenges, and so on. It’s okay to feel sad and withdrawn after a traumatic event, but when it persists and begins to affect the daily functioning of the person it raises a flag as situational depression.
- – Medication (Antidepressants).
- – Psychotherapy (most notable is the application of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).
- – Combination of Medication & Psychotherapy.
- – Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and other brain stimulation therapies.
- – Alternative Therapy (e.g. biofeedback training).
Self Help Tips
- Take practical steps to control daily stress. Learn how to manage stress if you stay in a city like Lagos.
- Talk to someone after a traumatic experience.
- Get help at the slightest symptoms.
- Have enough sleep.
- Eat a balance diet always. At risk? Eat foods that help boost Serotonin in the body. Examples are Bananas, fatty fishes.
- Avoid Alcohol or any other psychoactive drugs.
- Exercise helps release endorphins that help your mood. Maintain an exercise routine.
- Set realistic goals.
- Try not to isolate self, and let others help.
- Practice deep breathing exercise.
- You can help in preventing suicide
Your feelings matter. Whenever you feel out of place, don’t hesitate to talk to a therapist. You can schedule an appointment here.
Until I come your way next time, remember better day tomorrow.
Canadian Mental Health Association (2014). Postpartum depression. Retrieved from: https://cmha.ca/documents/postpartum-depression
Paykel E. S. (2008). Basic concepts of depression. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 10(3), 279–289.