15-05-2021 / Mental Health and Wellness

What is Depression - Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Described as a feeling of anger, loss, or sadness that intervenes with a person's everyday activities. Here are some of the symptoms, causes, and certain ways to overcome depression.

What is Depression - Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Mazia AhmedMazia Ahmed

Mazia Ahmed

MSc Nutrition Science, Ph.D. Scholar

Table of Content

What is Depression?

  • Depression is a widespread mental health disorder. It can be expressed as a feeling of sadness, loss, or anger that intervenes with a person's everyday activities. People experience depression in several ways, which may interfere with their daily work, resulting in a loss of time and lower productivity. It can also affect relationships and may lead to some chronic health conditions. Depression is the leading cause of disability. It can affect adults, adolescents, and children. It is a pervasive mental health disorder. Throughout the world, about 264 million people of all age groups suffer from depression.

  • It is very different from usual mood swings and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. In a long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity, depression can cause serious health conditions. The affected person suffers greatly and functions very severely at work, at school, or in the family. In worst cases, depression may even lead to suicide. A recent study showed that close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second most leading cause of death in 15 to 29 years old people. As compared to men, women are more likely to get depression. It's essential to know that feeling down at times is a normal part of life. Sad and upsetting events happen to everyone. But, if you're feeling sadness or hopelessness regularly, you are dealing with depression.

Few Things to know about depression Infographic

8 Major Causes of Depression

There are many possible causes and various factors that combine to trigger the symptoms. Factors that play a role include in causing depression are:

  1. The genetic features of a person.

  2. changes in the brain's neurotransmitter levels

  3. Various environmental factors

  4. Various psychological and social factors

  5. additional conditions, such as bipolar disorders.

  6.  Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can make someone more vulnerable to depression later in life.

  7. People who are old or senior citizens are at higher risk of depression.

  8. Certain medications can also lead to depression.

  • Depression can also come from complicated social interactions due to psychological and biological factors. People who have undergone adverse life events such as unemployment, grief, sexual or psychological trauma are more likely to develop depression. It can also lead to more stress and dysfunction and worsen the person's real-life situations.

  • Physical health is also a leading cause of depression. For example, cardiovascular disease can also lead to depression and vice versa. 

  • In the early 1950s and '60s, health care experts divided depression into two types: Endogenous and Neurotic. Endogenous means the depression that comes from within the body, i.e., may be of a genetic disorder or the one which comes out of nowhere. In contrast, Neurotic or reactive depression has an apparent environmental factor, such as losing a loved one or other significant loss, such as losing a job or business. In the 1970s and '80s, attention shifted from the cause of depression to its effects on the affected person. 

7 Common Symptoms of Depression

Depression can cause a variety of symptoms. Some may affect your mood, while others have an effect on your body. The symptoms may also be ongoing or come and go. The symptoms of depression are different in men, women, and children. However, the most common type of symptoms include:

1. There is a change in attitudes, such as having feelings like aggressiveness, irritability, anxiousness, and restlessness.

2. There is emotional breakdown such as feeling empty, sad, hopeless.

3. It affects your behavior which includes loss of interest, not finding pleasure in your favorite activities, feeling tired quickly, thoughts of suicide, drinking excessively, using drugs, and engaging in high-risk activities.

4. It also affects your sexual health, which includes reduced sexual desire, lack of sexual performance.

5.  There are cognitive disabilities such as inability to concentrate, difficulty completing tasks, delayed responses during conversations.

6. There are uneven sleeping patterns, such as insomnia, restless sleep, excessive sleepiness, not sleeping through the night.

7. There is a reduction in physical well-being, such as feeling fatigued, having pains, headaches, and digestive problems.

Symptoms of Depression

Other symptoms of depression include:

1. Recurrent Depressive Disorder: This disorder involves a repeated number of depressive incidents in back-to-back events. During these incidents, the person experiences a depressed mood, loss of interest and satisfaction, and reduced energy, leading to reduced physical and mental activities for two weeks. A lot of people with depression also suffer from anxiety symptoms, loss of sleep and appetite, and feelings of guilt or low self-worth.

  • Depending on the severity of symptoms, a depressive incident can be classified into three types, i.e., mild, moderate, and severe. An individual with a mild depressive incident or event will have some difficulty continuing with everyday work and social activities but will not stop functioning altogether. During a severe depressive episode, it is uncertain whether the person will continue with social, work, and domestic activities, except to a limited extent.

2. Bipolar Affective Disorder: This type of depression consists of both manic and depressive episodes separated by a normal mood duration. Manic episodes may increase irritable mood, over-activity, speech pressure, increased self-esteem, and lack of sleep.

5 Ways to Test Whether Someone has Depression or Not

There isn't a single test to know whether you have depression or not. But you can make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and a psychological evaluation.

In most cases, you can ask a series of questions about your:

1. Moods

2. Appetite

3. Sleep pattern

4. Activity level

5. Thoughts

As depression can be linked to other health problems, you may also conduct a physical examination. Sometimes thyroid problems or a vitamin D deficiency can accelerate symptoms of depression. Never ignore symptoms of depression. If your mood doesn't improve or gets even worse, seek medical help. It is a severe mental health illness with the potential for complications.

3 Ways to Treat Depression

  • There are a large number of effective treatments available for moderate and severe depression. Doctors may give you psychological treatments such as Behavioral Activation, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) or antidepressant medication such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs). Different psychological treatment formats are taken into consideration, including individual and/or group face-to-face psychological treatments delivered by professionals and supervised by therapists.

  • Psychosocial treatments are also helpful for treating mild depression. Antidepressants can be an effective form of treatment for moderate or severe depression, but they are not suitable for treatment for cases of mild depression. They should not be used to treat depression in children and are not adequate for treatment in adolescents.

Several classes of antidepressants are available. They are:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

  • Tricyclic Antidepressants

  • Atypical Antidepressants

  • Selective Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

1. Natural treatment

Many people use natural treatments, such as herbal medicines to treat mild-to-moderate depression.

A study shows that eating more of the following food helps to reduce depression symptoms:

  • fruits

  • vegetables

  • fish

  • olive oil

Healthy Diet to Cure Depression

The following are some popular herbs and plants that people use to treat depression:

  • St. John's wort (Hindi name Choli Phulya): They are actively used to treat depression but are not suitable for people who have bipolar disorder. In India, it is commercialized and sold by various nutraceutical companies.

  • Ginseng (Chinese herb): It is used to improve mental health and reduce stress. It is also commercialized and sold in India.

  • Chamomile: This contains flavonoids in them that may have an antidepressant effect. 

  • Lavender: This may help you to reduce anxiety and insomnia.

2. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, also known as talking therapies for depression, includes CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), interpersonal psychotherapy, and problem-solving treatments. For some types of depression, psychotherapy is the first-line treatment, while others respond better to a combination of psychotherapy and medications.

Psychotherapy to cure Depression

3. Interpersonal Therapy

This therapy is based on the idea that depression can be related to your relationships. So the goal of this therapy is to assist you in improving your relationship skills, like learning how to resolve conflict and becoming a better communicator. Interpersonal therapy sessions are relatively short in length, usually lasting between 12 and 16 weeks.

How to help Someone who is in Depression

Helping someone with depression is essential. However, you can do things to help include encouraging them, listening to them with compassion, engaging the suffering person in day-to-day tasks, being watchful for signs of their suicidal behavior, etc.

Word of Wisdom

  • There are many ways to prevent depression. The most important protective factors for depression are forming social connections and getting social support. Maintaining healthy friendships and relationships can decrease the chances of depression. A factor that decides whether an individual will receive care for symptoms of depression is often based on their social life. Friends or family notice that someone's not happy, having trouble getting out of bed, and missing activities and appointments will help them seek attention.

  • Someone who is relatively isolated may be at risk for not getting adequate treatment, and in turn, falling to more profound depression. The best way to defeat depression is to nurture your relationships and encourage each other to talk openly about your feelings without judgment. The more we can open up our emotions in front of others, the more we can help avoid and slow down the cycle of negative emotions, which leads to depression.


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