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Depression is a mental state which involves the mood, feelings, thoughts, behavior, and general health. It affects the person’s physical, emotional, social and psychological well-being. People of all races, ages, sexes and ethnic and religious backgrounds can be affected by depression. Depression is three to five times more common in the elderly as compared in young people.
Depression is caused because of abnormalities in the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, which are involved in mood regulation. These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters, which help the different areas of the brain communicate with each other. When there is shortage of neurotransmitters then, it can lead to the symptoms of depression.
Depression has been ranked as one of the most disabling disorders in the world, by the World Health Organization. It is expected that at any given time, more than 340 million people worldwide suffer from depression.
Causes of Depression
Depression is caused because of abnormalities in the levels of neurotransmitters, which are involved in mood regulation. The cause of depression is a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Though, there are certain risk factors which makes one more vulnerable to depression.
Some of the risk factors are as follows:-
- Imbalance in the neurotransmitters
- Financial strain.
- Absence of social support.
- Inability to cope with stressful life events such as loss of loved ones, loss of possessions, etc.
- Chronic health problems such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, etc.
- Family history of depression.
- Marital or relationship problems.
- Hormonal factors due to menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum period, pre-menopause, and menopause.
- Early childhood trauma or abuse.
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
- Deficiencies of vitamin B, vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, potassium, or biotin.
- Medications like prednisone, certain blood pressure medicines, sleeping pills, etc.
Symptoms and signs of Depression
Depression may vary from individual to individual, though there are some common signs and symptoms which are as follows:-
- Feeling of sadness, helplessness, worthlessness and hopelessness.
- No interest in daily activities, former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, etc.
- Modifications in appetite and weight. There can be significant weight loss or weight gain.
- Changes in sleep. There can be either loss of sleep or oversleeping.
- Increased irritability or restlessness.
- Loss of energy.
- Feeling guilty.
- Suicidal thoughts may occur.
- Difficulty in concentrating, focusing or making decisions.
- Increased physical complaints such as headaches, back pains, etc. Unexplained aches and pains.
Complications of Depression
Complications linked with depression may include:
- Relationship difficulties.
- Family conflicts.
- Heart attacks and stroke.
- Sleep disorders.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Severe aches and pains.
- Alcohol abuse.
- Substance abuse.
Diagnosis of Depression
Presently, there are no laboratory tests which can help in diagnosing depression. Depression is diagnosed by conducting a psychological diagnostic evaluation and physical examination of the patient. The psychological diagnostic evaluation includes the mental status examination to determine the entire range of psychological symptoms and problems.
As depression is linked to several other medical conditions or can be due a side effect of several medications. Hence, routine laboratory tests are conducted to rule out other causes of the presenting symptoms.
Treatment of Depression
There are several varieties of treatment options available for dealing with depression. The treatment for depression varies from person to person. Generally depression is treated with medicines or counseling or with both.
Some methods of treatment for depression include:
- Medications are prescribed by the psychologist according to disease condition of the patient
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) - Here electrical currents are passed through the brain which affects the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.
- Natural remedies, such as herbal supplements and meditation.
- Psychotherapy or counseling.
- Exercise - Physical activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, gardening, etc are beneficial.
Prevention of Depression
Depression can be prevented by following the below mentioned steps:-
- Proper diet intake.
- Regular exercises.
- Consume more vegetables.
- Increase intake of Omega-3 oils.
- Avoid been overworked.
- Keep yourself occupied by doing things which you enjoy doing.
- Sleep well.
- Share and speak out your feelings.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol intake.
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