What is Depression?

Depression is a disorder that negatively affects the way you think and feel about yourself, other people, and the world around you. It’s characterised by feelings of intense sadness, hopelessness, a loss of interest in activities, and an inability to find enjoyment in life. 

Everyone experiences feelings of sadness, which can be overwhelming at times, but usually, these feelings resolve on their own, and the person can still enjoy and find momentary relief in doing certain things. If however, these intense feelings persist for more than two weeks and prevent you from being able to live your normal life, it could be a sign of depression.

Someone who is depressed may feel intensely sad or hopeless in response to a life event (such as losing a loved one, being let go from a job, moving to a new city, feeling chronically stressed, etc.), or may develop depression without identifiable contributing circumstances. 

No matter the reason, if you think you may be suffering from depression, it’s important to reach out and talk to someone you trust or to a mental health professional.

* Please remember that only a licensed mental health professional can diagnose you, and refrain from taking medication and undertaking treatment without professional recommendation.

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What Are the Symptoms of Depression?

Psychological symptoms include:

  • Feeling intense sadness, hopelessness, or ‘emptiness’.
  • Feeling excessively irritable, and/or pessimistic
  • Cognitive impairment including difficulty focusing, remembering, and making decisions
  • Experiencing extreme, disproportionate feelings of guilt or shame
  • Thoughts or discussions about death, suicide, or that the only solution to the problem faced is to die

Physical symptoms include:

  • Disrupted sleep patterns - either sleeping too much or struggling to fall or stay a sleep 
  • Noticeable changes in appetite and weight
  • Loss of interest in activities, hobbies, and pursuits previously enjoyed
  • Loss of interest in sex and physical intimacy
  • Persistent feelings of exhaustion and tiredness, no matter the circumstances
  • Noticeable slowed physical movements or speech

What are the Causes of Depression?

We still don’t understand what exactly causes depression in people, but mental health experts believe that an interplay of different factors can increase a person’s chances of developing depression:

Genetics may play a key role in depression. Research has extensively shown that depression often runs in families, suggesting that people may have a genetic predisposition to developing depression. If you have an immediate family member who suffers or has suffered from depression, you may be more at risk of developing it.

A person’s environment may also contribute to depression. If you live in a high-stress environment or have limited to no support from family, friends, or a community, it can be a cause of a depressive onset. Your geographical location and physical environment can also trigger depression.

Negative or traumatic experiences can trigger depression. If you experience one, or a combination, of up setting life experiences, your risk of developing depression is heightened. 

Physical illness and medications may also be a cause of depression. If you are experiencing, or have experienced a certain illness, or are taking certain medications, there is a possibility of them triggering depression.

Alcohol and drug abuse over an extended period may contribute to the development of depression. 


How is Depression Treated?

Depression is treatable, and people suffering from depression are fully capable of recovering with the right intervention and treatments as prescribed by mental health experts. Treatments for depression include:

Therapy - Most commonly, the person suffering will be recommended to undergoCognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), also known as talk therapy. Group therapy and family therapy may also be suggested.

Medication - Antidepressant medication may be recommended to treat more moderate to severe depression. 

Coping mechanisms - In addition to any therapeutic or medication-based interventions, mental health professionals may also make recommendations for coping mechanisms, such as daily exercise routines, journaling, or making changes to diet.

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