Depression is a common experience, which can make a person feel truly painful and yet won't be understood most of the times. People with depression have tough time managing things at various levels and are often found struggling with feelings. It is important to know about depression, its definition, symptoms, types and treatment to be able to manage the condition better.
Depression is difficult to define, difficult to experience, and supremely difficult to work one's way out of. However, as human beings, we are constantly learning and growing. Combating our neuroses and paving the path to a better life for ourselves is the heaviest – and most rewarding – part of that.
So, let us try to understand depression, its definition, symptoms, types and treatment to help our friends, family and even our own selves at times, if required.
What is Depression?
Given the elasticity of the illness, and the various ways in which it can manifest, depression is difficult to define. It is a concrete illness which affects everything in a person, right from their diet to their productivity. Depression is not to be confused with a passing mood or a 'bad phase', though. In order to be diagnosed as depression, your passing mood needs to last at least two weeks.
Depression can be a challenge to pin down, just as the definition of depression is tricky to explain. People with depression can appear sad, disinterested, less responsive and emotionally fatigued while some may be showing up at work every day, going out with their friends, may even maintaining relationships but there might be a storm brewing inside, which is not easily noticeable.
Definition of Depression
Thus the definition of depression can be an emotional condition when people feel sad, dejected and hopeless, less interested in worldly things, which may also affect their physical health leading to loss of appetite, alterations in sleep and other behavioral problems.
Symptoms of Depression
This, being an emotional condition, the symptoms of depression can be understood better. Severity and duration of the symptoms of depression are subjective and often vary from person to person. If you find yourself here wondering if you – or someone you know and care about – has depression, it is necessary that these depression symptoms must be present for at least two weeks, and consistently.
Some of the commonest symptoms of depression include
- Feeling sad and/or empty persistently
- Difficulty articulating thoughts and feelings
- Restlessness, but no energy to do anything
- Drastic spikes or dips in appetite and weight
- Oversleeping or not sleeping enough
- Withdrawal from or complete rejection of social scenarios
- Feeling hopelessness and pessimism. Not to be confused with 'everyday pessimism'; this is when you can't imagine better days
- Loss of mental abilities – lack of concentration and heavy memory loss
- Feelings of overpowering guilt and worthlessness.
- Phantom body pains, which is the mental illness creeping through your mind and making its way into your body
- Thoughts of self-harm and suicide; suicide attempts.
While these are the symptoms of depression most often noted, some people may present with similar complaints, which can present themselves in different ways. It is also common for people to experience body pains, stomach pains, indigestion, headaches and other physical problems after prolonged emotional symptoms of depression.
Types of Depression
Depression is a multifaceted condition and the types of depression mainly depend on the unique circumstances from which the particular bout of depression has emerged. Depression also stems from genetic and environmental factors.
Various types of depression are as follows –
- Dysthymia – Dysthymia, a type of depression, is also called neurotic or chronic depression, and dysthymic depression. Dysthymia is chronic, which means that the symptoms may not be as burning or pronounced, but the symptoms and effects last for years. Dysthymia is when a depressive mood lasts for more than two years. This essentially becomes a part of their personality, as much as the patient tries not to let it happen. Varying in degrees of severity; dysthymia can be very challenging to come to terms with.
- Perinatal Depression – This type of depression is for the ladies! When it comes to childbirth, feelings of anxiety and mild depression are fairly common; but perinatal depression surpasses that. Women suffering from perinatal depression experience a complete depressive episode during and after childbirth. This type of depression might stem from the physical toll of childbirth, or the shaking feelings of loss, or other circumstantial causes. Perinatal depression prevents new mothers from tending to their children, and living their life in recovery post the nine-month-long ordeal.
- Psychotic Depression – Severe depression paired with symptoms of psychosis is how psychotic depression is defined. Symptoms of psychosis in this type of depression, consist of delusions – which are unshakeable beliefs a person holds, mostly false and always rather disturbing – and hallucinations. Hallucinations can range from auditory hallucinations where the patient hears things (a fly, the starting of a car, jangling of keys, someone's voice) to visual hallucinations, where the patient can see things in front of and around them, like shadows, entire people or things. This type of depression can be dangerous in some people.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder – Rather self-explanatory, seasonal affective disorder type of depression, lasts only a season, thankfully. It is the creeping in of depressive feelings during the winter. Places where winters bring about months of no sunlight are rampant in seasonal affective disorder. However, this particular type of depression lifts once the sun comes out. Symptoms of winter depression are offset by severe social withdrawal, sleeping for longer than necessary, and weight gain.
- Manic Depression – Often overlooked, manic depression can be easily characterized by the patient's drastic shifts in mood. At their highest mania, they are joyful, outgoing, and full of energy; all of which masks their instability. Manic episodes are when the patient feels overly excited; aggressive and very wired; struggles with uncontrollable thoughts and speech; and engaging in risky behavior. These periods of mania are soon offset by the depressive episodes where they go as low as their highs have taken them. Manic type of depression is very volatile and is the cause of the majority of depression-led suicides.
Treatment of Depression
Depression cannot be caught up by any examination, but can only be diagnosed clinically. It is crucial to bring this illness to the eyes of a medical professional, as it is not something that you wait out. The symptoms of depression are often visible and once noted, it is better to seek medical help. The various forms or types of depression can affect the health and life of a person in many ways and hence it is not worth taking any risk. So, it is necessary to confirm the diagnosis and begin with treatment of depression at the earliest.
Some of the methods used for treatment of depression include:
- Psychotherapy – Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy and in this treatment for depression, various therapies for conversation and self-realization are used. Psychotherapy helps persons to analyze and understand triggers and effects of their depression; help them to restructure the well-established thought patterns; help to gain a new insight into their life, and help to learn coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This treatment of depression is hugely beneficial to relieve the emotional as well as the physical symptoms of depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on thoughts, and identifying & restructuring them. The whole idea of CBT is that our ways of thinking are malleable and once we learn to change our way of thinking about a situation, our actions & reactions to that situation will change too. In CBT, the therapist helps the person to change ways of thinking and then to act on it.
There are two kinds of CBT, both are effective treatment of depression, namely –
- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy which focuses on how emotions influence thinking & actions; and
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy wherein the feelings & behavior of the patient are validated, from where they gain confidence to start working ahead.
- Medication – Another option for treatment of depression includes medicines like antidepressants. Antidepressants control the way your brain processes and utilizes certain chemicals. Antidepressants, again, aren't a one-size-fits-all remedy. People need to go through several different doses to know what works for them. Medicines have side effects; antidepressants more so than others. Side effects of medication are wide, ranging from changes in sleeping patterns, appetite, concentration problems, feelings of 'fogginess', dip in sex drive, and can even mess with one's hormones, as evidenced by the large percentage of women who found themselves to be sporting facial hair after a course of antidepressants. However, if it is necessary, it may have to be taken, with medical advice, as a part of the treatment of depression.
Additionally, relaxation therapies, yoga and other complementary therapies may also help to treat depression along with main treatment options. It is best to follow medical advice and regularly follow-up.
Depression requires a lot of love and support, and good people around. If you – or someone you know – are depressed, get help. Talk about your feelings. Don't hide behind the doors of your perceived sanity. Surround yourself with love, with people who love you, and with things you love. Better days are around the corner. With this, let us acknowledge the definition of depression, the symptoms and problems faced by depressed people and help them seek medical opinion for appropriate treatment of depression.
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