Understanding Depression: Facts You Need to Know about It

The words depression, depressed, and depressing have all been loosely used for the longest time to describe feelings of extreme sadness and grief. It wasn’t until recent years that people started to take them more seriously and give them more importance. Back in the day, whenever someone said he or she was depressed, it usually meant they just felt sad. Nowadays, whenever someone is in a state of depression, it usually is a cause for alarm for a family member, a friend, a wellness specialist, and people who care about that person.

What Is Depression?

Although almost everyone feels sad sometimes, intense sadness that leads to feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness could mean a person is experiencing clinical depression or what specialists call major depressive disorder. It is an emotional or psychological condition that causes one to have a mood disorder that leads to a lack of interest in life.

What Causes It?

Most medical experts and specialists have yet to pinpoint the actual cause of depression in a person. The scientific and medical community, though, are in agreement that it could be caused by one or a combination of the following:

Genetics

Although there’s not enough sufficient data for experts to make a definitive statement about this, it has long been believed that you’re susceptible to depression if you are related to one who has experienced it.

Hormones

Sometimes hormonal imbalances caused by pregnancy, menopause, thyroid problems, and other similar things can lead to depression symptoms manifesting in a person.

Brain Structure

Since not everyone has the same physical brain makeup, it is believed that there are physical differences in the brains of those who are depressed from those who aren’t.

Brain Chemistry

The substances in our brains that affect our mood are called neurotransmitters. When a person’s neurotransmitters aren’t working the way they should, this causes him or her to have bouts of depression.

What Are the Different Types of Depression?

While there are several kinds of depression, they are all categorized under these four types:

Situational Depression

This type of depression is triggered by experiencing unfortunate events that leave one traumatized emotionally. Some examples are experiencing a breakup, getting fired from work, or not getting into your college of choice.

Biological Depression

This depression primarily has to do with our biological makeup, such as how our neurotransmitters work (or not work) and hormonal imbalances caused by other physical factors like pregnancy or menopause.

Psychological Depression

Sometimes depression takes place because of certain psychological factors that highly affect the way we process ideas and concepts. In most cases, people who have this type of depression have a misaligned view of their realities and worldviews.

Existential Depression

One of the most common types of depression is existential depression. This has to do with a person asking what their purpose in life is. They tend to be overachievers who perceive that they can discover meaning in life by setting lofty goals and achieving them, only to be disappointed when they don’t get the sense of fulfillment they initially thought they would get.

Why Is Depression Potentially Dangerous?

Depression is a serious mental health issue that is potentially harmful to a person. In most cases, because of the hopelessness and worthlessness felt by a person, he or she might be inclined to think of inflicting self-harm to the point of taking his or her life. If you know someone who shows signs of depression and has hinted at doing something potentially harmful, seek help immediately. Call a mental health professional or your local help hotline.

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How Is It Diagnosed and Treated?

Depression can be quite challenging to deal with, especially if you’re not sure if that’s exactly what someone is going through. Here are some ways specialists can deduce whether someone has the disorder:

Physical Exams

Often, physical exams are conducted by doctors and specialists to see if you’re dealing with any other medical issue that could be triggering your depression.

Laboratory Tests

Since depression is also linked to hormonal imbalances, some laboratory work might be required to help doctors make an accurate diagnosis.

Psychiatric Evaluations

Depression is primarily a mental health issue. Hence, doctors might ask you about some very personal things, such as your feelings, thoughts, and past traumas to see if these are affecting your condition.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

This manual published by the American Psychiatric Association contains a list of several types of depression that doctors use to gauge whether your symptoms match any of the conditions listed in it.

If a person has been diagnosed with depression, specialists can make recommendations for the treatment depending on how severe the case is. The following are some typical treatments for depression:

Medication

Generally, medications, such as antidepressants, are effective for people who are suffering from depression. The doctor’s prescription will depend entirely on the results of the diagnosis.

Residential or Hospital Treatment

In severe cases when people who have depression clearly show signs that they are unable to take care of themselves, they will need to be placed under professional care in a hospital or residential treatment facility. This allows doctors and healthcare providers to pay closer attention to the treatment of a patient.

Psychotherapy

In most cases, people undergoing depression regularly see mental health professionals to talk to and get help in processing the things going on in their heads. This includes a series of mindfulness activities that a patient can exercise to alleviate his or her symptoms.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

If things don’t go well with medication, doctors will recommend a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to help jump start your brain by shooting magnetic pulses through it to stimulate the nerves responsible for regulating your mood.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is similar to TMS in a way, as it is one of the last resorts for treatment if antidepressants and therapy are insufficient. This process sends electrical currents through your brain to activate your neurotransmitters and make them work better.

If you believe you are experiencing depression or know someone who is, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Pursuing treatment with a specialist can be quite empowering and liberating, and it will help you regain your confidence and passion for life.

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