Decoding Depression: Types, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Depression Blog by Perfect Health Magazine

Depression - Quick 30 Seconds Summary

  • Depression is a serious mental health issue that leads to disruption and major upheaval in the life of the person diagnosed with depression as well as loved ones. 
  • According to the American CDC, 1 in 15 adults are affected by depression every year. 
  • There are many types of depression including Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Postpartum depression etc. 
  • Symptoms of depression include: constant feelings of sadness, loss of interest in physical activities, changes in appetite and changes in sleep patterns, etc. 
  • Causes of depression are abuse, age, conflict, grief, etc. 
  • Depression treatments include medication, psychotherapy, and positive support from friends and family.

Depression - Meaning & Overview

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression,  is a mood disorder that makes you feel constant sadness and lack of interest in day to day life. 

According to Center for Disease Control & Prevention estimates, 18.5% of American Adults had depression symptoms in any given 2-week period in 2019. 

Depression affects an estimate of 1 in 15 adults every year, and 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some point in their life.

Depression is more than your ordinary bout of ‘having the blues ’ and you can’t simply just ‘snap’ out of it. Clinical depression may require long term care and treatment, with medication and psychotherapy.

What Are The Different Types Of Depression?

There are many types of depression. Some are caused by events that have occurred in your life, while some are caused by chemical changes that occur in your brain. The type of depression decides the course of treatment for the patient. 

  1. Major Depression or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  2. Persistent Depressive Disorder
  3. Bipolar Disorder 
  4. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) 
  5. Psychotic Depression 
  6. Peripartum (Postpartum) Depression
  7. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
  8. Atypical depression 
  9. Treatment-Resistant Depression

Doctors and psychiatrists spend hours understanding the patient’s condition before diagnosing him/her under any category of depression. This is a serious condition and mislabeling could lead to disastrous results for the patient.

What Are The Symptoms Of Depression?

Usually, most of us feel sad, low or depressed at times. It is a normal reaction to loss, life’s numerous struggles or having injured self-esteem. But when these feelings cause an overwhelming response longer than usual, start showing physical symptoms like pain, and last for a longer time period, they can keep you from leading what is called a ‘normal life’. 

Perfect Health Magazine recommends that in case you feel your normal life is hampered because of a persistent feeling of sadness, then seek medical help immediately. 

Symptoms of depression can include the following:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
  • Changes in appetite – weight loss or weight gain unrelated to dieting.
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
  • Increased fatigue and loss of energy.
  • An increase in purposeless physical activity (eg. inability to sit still, fidgeting, pacing, hand wringing or slowed movements or speech etc) these actions must be severe enough to be observed by others.
  • Feeling worthless or guilty.
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions.
  • Having suicidal thoughts.
  • Aches pains or cramps like headaches that won’t go away with medication.

These symptoms must last a minimum of two weeks and must represent a change in your behaviour and previous level of functioning, to be diagnosed as Depression.

When to See A Doctor For Depression?

If you have been feeling gloomy or sad for a long period of time or you observe any of the symptoms mentioned above in yourself or a loved one then please take them to a qualified doctor at the earliest.

What Are The Causes Of Depression?

Depression is most certainly a complex disease. No one knows what its exact causes are, but there are a variety of reasons associated with depression. 

Some of the causes for depression are:

  • Abuse – Abuse such as physical, emotional or sexual can make one prone and vulnerable to depression later in life.
  • Age – Elderly people, especially ones living alone, without social support are at a higher risk of depression. 
  • Conflict – People who are vulnerable, have a higher risk of depression if they have regular personal conflicts with family or friends.
  • Death or loss – Sadness or grief associated with the loss of a loved one, caused by death or otherwise, although natural, has a risk of depression.
  • Gender – Statistically, women are twice as vulnerable to depression which may be due to hormonal changes that take place.
  • Genes – A family history of Depression raises the risk factor amongst patients. Although there is no direct correlation of the same as it is the case with Huntington’s or cystic fibrosis, studies have shown a greater risk with family history.
  • Stress – Stress when not handled properly, can cause depression amongst patients. Whether it is the stress at work, personal life or in general, the risk associated is high.
  • Serious illnesses – Depression can be caused due to other major illnesses which a patient already suffers from.
  • Substance misuse – As per research, nearly 30% of patients with a history of substance abuse have clinical or major depression.

How Is Depression Diagnosed?

Unlike other major illnesses, depression cannot be diagnosed through blood tests or imaging tests. Hence, doctors usually look out for the symptoms when a patient visits for a routine check-up or follow-up for other chronic ailments. In fact, it is the interaction between the doctor and the patient that yields the most results for the diagnosis of depression.

During such visits, the doctor looks for specific symptoms of depression in the patient. Symptoms such as unexplained weight gain/loss, mood swings, change in behavioral patterns, change in thinking patterns, and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed are some of the key areas the doctor keeps an eye on.

A doctor generally rules out physical causes by performing a full physical examination. He may then proceed to talk with the patient to understand their mental frame of mind. 

If any of the symptoms of depression are present for more than 2 weeks, the doctor notes it down and enquires deeper to understand what type of depression you are dealing with.

Sometimes there are physical signs of depression, which are as follows:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Back pain
  • Joint pain
  • Limb pain
  • Gut problems or digestion issues
  • Constant tiredness
  • Sleep problems
  • Slowing of movement and thinking

Your doctor takes all these into consideration while making his assessment of depression.

How Is Depression Treated?

Depression is mainly treated with psychotherapy and medication, as your doctor deems fit.

Treatments for depression are: 

Medication: 

Based on the judgement of the therapist and qualified doctor medication known as anti-depressants may be prescribed to the patient. 

Different types of prescribed anti-depressants are: 

  • SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and SNRIs (Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors)
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) 
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) 
  • Antipsychotics – Lithium Carbonate (Eskalith)
  • Ketamine 

Psychotherapy for depression: 

Therapy is an important part of the treatment of depression. In cases of mild-to-moderate depression, psychotherapy alone may be sufficient treatment to alleviate symptoms. 

Therapy involves regular sessions with a qualified psychotherapist who helps you in overcoming your depression while resolving all past and present mental health issues. 

Commonly used forms of psychotherapy are cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal therapies.

Depression - Concluding Remarks

Whether you have some or all of the symptoms of depression, you are urged to consult your local GP and discuss the same with them, who can then guide you with an appropriate way forward. Along with this, lifestyle changes and practicing stress management techniques such as deep breathing or Pranayama, meditation, and Yoga are some of the practices that ensure you have control over your thoughts and behavioral patterns. As they say, a healthy mind and body are your greatest asset.