A beginners guide to understanding depression.
We will all experience some form of emotional upset or sadness in our lives. We are all human, with a complex range of feelings and hearts that can be broken. Things go wrong from time to time, it’s just a part of life. Quite frequently, people use the term ‘depression’ to describe their blue moods. This, however, is incorrect.
Depression is a complex, clinical disorder which can manifest in a myriad of forms and is diagnosed by a medical professional. While not knowing EXACTLY what causes it, research suggests that a variety of factors such as genetics, long term drug or alcohol abuse and continuing life stresses (illness, unemployment and the like) are the culprits behind it.
Signs and Symptoms
Depressive disorders present with different indicators which are both physical and emotional. The main difference between depression and general sadness is that these signs will be present for a few weeks or more with depression, whereas a blue mood will normally disappear after a few days. Do remember though, that we will all have some of the more common symptoms listed below over the course of our lives, and it’s equally important to remember that not everyone suffering depression will have the exact same ones as each other.
- Persistent sadness
- Constant tiredness or listlessness
- Loss or gain of appetite
- Not wanting to socialize
- Feelings of emptiness and worthlessness
- Acts of recklessness and thoughts of suicide
- Negatively criticizing oneself
- Loss of libido
If any or all of the above resonates with you it is incredibly important that you seek advice from a GP. First of all, to confirm you in fact do have depression then secondly to diagnose exactly which type. The latter is crucial as it is essential to ensure the correct treatment will be dispensed to you. Once a treatment regimen has commenced, many people start to see some sort of improvement in their lives within 3-4 weeks.
Types of Depression
There are several variations that fall underneath the depression umbrella, 3 of the most common being described below. Some are triggered by events in one’s life, others are caused by chemical changes occurring in one’s brain. After the initial diagnosis is made that you have depression, your GP will refer you to a mental health specialist, namely a psychiatrist. This is who will work with you to determine exactly which type of depression you suffer from. Following this, a treatment plan will be devised by him or her to get you back on the road to recovery. This may involve medication, therapy sessions or a combination of the 2.
Major Depressive Disorder:
The most commonly diagnosed. It is also known as clinical depression, unipolar depression or quite simply, just depression. The main indicator here is constantly feeling low or upset for a period of at least 2 weeks, either majority of this time or on an everyday basis. Other indicators include fatigue, suicidal thoughts, a significant weight loss or gain, irritability, loss of concentration and withdrawal from your loved ones.
Previously known as Manic Depression, the main sign is alternating between periods of depression and periods of mania, often with normal moods occurring somewhere in between. Mania is the polar opposite of depression and commonly involves heaps of energy, great moods, recklessness, rapid thoughts and sleeplessness. The more serious cases can involve delusions also. Bipolar Disorder is the one most closely linked to genetics.
Post Natal Depression:
While many new mothers experience some form of the baby blues, 10% of these women will go on to develop post-natal depression. Sufferers tend to experience feelings of anxiety, fear and sadness, as well as having racing thoughts and panic attacks. They can also find it difficult to deal with everyday life, which makes it essential for both mother and baby that Mum starts receiving treatment immediately. In more serious cases, a mother has no feelings for her baby and cannot bond with him or her.
Treatment: How does it work?
As every person is different, there is no overall treatment plan per se, but rather one that will be specifically tailored to meet your needs. What works for you may not necessarily benefit the next person, even if you do suffer from the same disorder. As aforementioned, depression can present in various different forms, and these range across a spectrum of mild to severe cases.
The most common form of treatment involves taking anti depression medication as it corrects the imbalance of chemistry in the brain that has been caused by your depression. There are many varieties ranging from mild to strong, all with proven results. Your doctor may try you on a number of them before you find one that works correctly for you.
For any treatment to work, you must be comfortable with your mental health practitioner. Don’t worry if the first one you meet isn’t a good fit, some people need to try a few before they find someone that they like and trust. Do not be disheartened when you are not cured overnight, as recovery takes time, and it can be a rather bumpy road.
Always remember, everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.