All of us go through spells of sadness in our lives. Sorrow, like happiness, is a normal state of mind. However, prolonged phase of sadness may not be normal. It could signal a mood disorder known as depression. According to the World Health Organization, this mental health challenge is the major cause of disability, worldwide. In the clinical psychology fraternity, depression is defined as a mood disorder, in which feelings of sadness and loss of interest in otherwise favourite things persist for more than 2 weeks at a stretch. It is likely to affect your daily functionalities and last for weeks, months. Different from frequent mood fluctuations, depression is a medical condition which is also characterised by anger, sense of loss, low self-worth and hopelessness. Certain health ailments, such as, arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity can worsen the symptoms of this mood disorder.
SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
Depression can affect a person emotionally as well as physically. Common symptoms of depression include unhappiness, loss of interest in activities which were earlier pleasurable, loss of appetite, lack of energy and motivation, difficulty in concentrating, inability to make decisions and sleep issues (mainly insomnia). Chronic, untreated depression can manifest through suicidal thoughts. Apart from these, there are other red flags of depression. Watch out for them:
- Reduced sexual desire
- Feeling of emptiness
- Withdrawal from surroundings
- Loss of appetite
TYPES OF DEPRESSION
Depression can be classified into various categories depending on the severity and longevity of symptoms. Here are the most common types of this mental health disorder:
Major or clinical depressive disorder
This is the most severe form of depression where you experience certain symptoms for more than 2 weeks. They include:
- Feeling sad for most part of the day
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Sleeping a lot or inability to snooze
- Slow thinking
- Recurring suicidal thoughts
Persistent depressive disorder
A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms. However, they last for 2 years.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
This type of depression sets in during the winter due to lack of sunlight.
Many women undergo this condition after giving birth to a baby. The major cause behind this form of depression is an alteration in hormones. Consult a psychologist if you experience postpartum depression for months after delivery.
CAUSES OF DEPRESSION
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact causes behind depression. However, certain factors may work as triggers:
- History of trauma or grief
- Work stress
- Love and relationship problems
- Family history
- Lack of exercise
- Certain medications
- Low self-esteem
- Sleep disorders
COMPLICATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH DEPRESSION
Depression is a serious disorder that can take a toll on individuals and their families. However, this mood disorder may be accompanied by over complications too:
TREATMENT OF DEPRESSION
The aim of depression treatment is symptom management. Curative measures include drug therapy and psychotherapy.
Doctors prescribe antidepressants for this mental health condition. Each type of these medicines works differently. However, their aim is to regulate your brain chemicals to make you feel upbeat. Do not resort to self-medication while it comes to taking anti-depressants. Also, consult your doctor before you stop taking them once the symptoms subside.
Talking to a trained counsellor goes a long way in easing the symptoms of depression. Your counsellor may resort to several techniques to help you with the condition. One of the most commonly used therapies is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). It focusses on a person’s thought process, belief and attitude and equips him or her with coping skills for negative emotions.
LIFESTYLE MODIFICATIONS FOR DEPRESSION
Alongside medications and psychological counselling, you need to make some lifestyle modifications to manage depression well.
A growing body of research associates processed and sugar-loaded foods with mental health conditions like depression. Various studies have also found that loading up on green vegetables, fruits and foods rich in monounsaturated fats like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids improve your cognitive capacity. Best sources of these fatty acids are nuts and olive oil.
Regular workout releases happy hormones, endorphins and stimulates the secretion of a brain chemical called norepinephrine, which is associated with mood. Also, yoga is known to alleviate stress, a contributing factor behind depression. Walking every day will also help you deal with depression.
Several studies have associated poor sleep quality with depression. Sleep regulates many brain chemicals that are linked to your mood. So, getting sound sleep is essential to manage depressive disorders. Stick to a bedtime every night and create bedtime rituals to enhance your snooze time.