Depression: A Simple Guide to a Difficult Problem
Depression affects about 264 million people worldwide — Are you one of them?
According to the World Health Organization, depression affects about 264 million people worldwide. This makes it one of the most most common mental health problems around the globe.
It’s important to know the difference between passing sadness and clinical depression because only then can you find the right treatment.
Since depression is usually something that creeps in gradually and without warning it can be hard to spot from the beginning.
In this article, I’ll cover what is depression, what are some possible causes, and why it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder. It is primarily categorized with feelings of helplessness, emptiness, and sadness. It can drastically change a person’s behaviors if prolonged for a long period.
People often describe their depression symptoms by saying they experience a constant feelings of hopelessness, not being able to find any meaning in the things they used to enjoy, or feeling like something is weighing them down.
Before you start seeking any type of treatment, it’s important to know if what you are experiencing is passing sadness or actual clinical depression. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), you should consider seeking help with a professional if you experience these symptoms for two weeks or longer:
- Inability to maintain focus on daily tasks
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Apathy to the things you used to enjoy
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite and eating
- Irritability, agitation, and moodiness
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Thoughts of death, suicide, or self-injury
Possible Causes of Depression
Depression is a complex result of social, psychological, and biological interactions. People can look similar on the outside, but their composition on the inside (chemical reactions, thoughts, and biology) are different.
Consider that what depresses one person might not depress another. As I’ve said before, each individual is unique. Nonetheless, some of the possible factors that contribute towards depression are:
Poor living conditions. A study showed that that living close to the poverty line contributes to poor mental health. The study also said that “negative economic shocks cause mental illness, [whereas] antipoverty programs such as cash transfers improve mental health.”
Genetics. A person does not inherit depression from their parents. What he does inherit is the genes that make him more prone to it. Studies indicate that those genes, along with “right” circumstances in life, can trigger in a person a mental health disorder like depression. The bottom line is that some people develop major depression more easily than others.
External Factors. Research by the National Counselling Society studied how the interactions we have with other people can impact our mental health. The results showed that if you are living with a person that stresses you, demands a lot from you, criticizes or verbally abuses you, it puts you at a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
Why Major Depression Is Dangerous
Depression itself does not kill people, but it is a major contributor to the act of suicide. According to the World Health Organization, around 800,000 people die each year due to depression.
Other serious consequences of major depression are:
- Cutting and burning yourself
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Partake in dangerous activities
- Constant thoughts about hurting yourself
What Treatments Are Available?
Therapy, medications, alternative medicine, and brain stimulations are the most common ways to treat depression. Since there isn’t a treatment that can help all depressed people the same way, you will likely need to do trial and error until you find the best treatment for you.
CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). CBT focuses on enhancing your problem-solving with a certified professional. The professional will help you unwind your mind to help you see more clearly what the real problem is.
The right therapist should help you discover the strength you have inside so you can solve your problems CBT is meant to help you become autonomous in life, not to become depended on your therapist.
Antidepressants. Doctors usually start by prescribing SSRIs (Selective Serotonins Reuptake Inhibitors) to patients. Some common SSRIs are Prozac, Zoloft, and Celexa. Sometimes, you’ll need what they call a pharmaceutical “cocktail” of pills to stabilize your mood, but this is done with the supervision of a medical professional.
ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy). ECT, frequently used in people suffering from major depression, is used as a last resort if antidepressants and CBT are not helping. The process is to put the patient under anesthesia and place a device on their head that will send small electrical impulses to cause a small seizure. Although positive results are not guaranteed, some patients have seen excellent results with this therapy.
Some doctors suggest patients do it once a year for “maintenance purposes”. Positive results can last up to months or years if the therapy was successful.
Bilateral cingulotomy. This is also considered as a last resort alternative. The bilateral cingulotomy neurosurgery, which is an update to the lobotomy procedure done in the 1940s, is a surgery consisting of drilling a hole in the prefrontal region of the brain and directly stimulate it with electrodes.
The idea is to alter the neurotransmitters in the brain that are causing the depression problem and then cause the patient relief. However, this is a dangerous procedure that can cause permanent damage to the brain.
What Natural Treatments Are Available?
Diet. Diet has been such an important aspect when it comes down to mental health wellness. There is even an entire field of medicine called nutritional psychiatry. More evidence is accumulating indicating that living with a poor diet may exacerbate depression symptoms.
Research has also concluded that “an experimental medicine approach and a mechanistic understanding is required to provide solid evidence on which future policies on diet and nutrition for mental health can be based.”
Plants. Plants have been used for decades to treat multiple diseases. St. John’s Worth and Kava are plants that people have used because they are believed to carry antidepressant properties.
Research shows that “medicinal plants and their extracts are natural remedies with enormous potential for treating various diseases, including depression and anxiety.”
Lifestyle Changes. Lifestyle changes are known in assisting a patient in the recovery process from anxiety and depression. In some cases, lifestyle changes alone can change a person’s life and pull them away from depression symptoms.
According to Earl E. Bakken Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota, some easy lifestyle changes you can do are exercise, diet, proper sleep hygiene, and reducing alcohol consumption.
Which One Is the Most Effective for Treating Depression?
There is not a single treatment in the medical industry that can guarantee permanent treatment from depression. Science is still far away from pointing out a specific cause or cure for depression. More research needs to be done but results are showing a promising expectative for the future.
Many go for alternative treatments because they come with fewer side effects. Like medical treatments, may have to do trial and error until you find the right method for you.
Where Is The Help?
According to healthline.com, “you can also check healthcare databases for therapists, psychiatrists, and counselors. These databases can provide you with information such as certifications, accepted insurance providers, and reviews left by other people.”
The databases healthline.com recommends starting with are:
Also, you can set an appointment to talk to your general practitioner. He should be able to pair you with a qualified mental health professional.
There are different explanations as to why some people become depressed and other don’t. Different causes may apply to different people because each person is unique.
If you need further help, consider reaching out to a mental health professional. A trained mental health professional can offer you guidance and support if you need to address a deeper issue.