Monday, June 10, 2013

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mental illness that causes psychological distress to the person suffering from it. It is generally described as a lowering of mood for a period of two weeks or more. This impairment can cause the victim much loss of normal physical and mental functioning and can be triggered at any time. There are causes such as distressing life events that are thought to trigger depression. Depression can fall into a number of categories depending on symptoms present. It can affect anyone at any stage in their life and does not discriminate against race, gender or socio-economic status.

Depression can be triggered by a life event. Depending on the nature of the life event, the length of time that the depression lasts for can be longer than 2 weeks, with some episodes taking longer than 8 months to resolve. Many life events can cause a depressive episode such as relationship difficulties, financial problems and health issues. The risk factors involved with depression are correlated with increased chance of suffering an episode, so its important to educate the public and bring awareness to individuals.

Being a psychological disorder depression affects the mind, and thus can affect a person's ability to function effectively in society. Depression can have take on three distinct forms, often going unnoticed by people not suffering from the disorder. Depression can affect a persons cognitive abilities, work performance and ability to socialise with others. Loss of interest in activities is also common which before the onset of the depression gave much pleasure, and the withdrawal of pleasure from these activities is a sure marker that something may be wrong.

The seriousness of depression can be dependent on many factors. A persons genetic history is a strong indicator, and if any family members have been diagnosed then the chances of depression are increased. The biological make-up of an individual also plays its part, with some people more prone to depressive episodes purely because of individual biology. Socio-economic factors such as lower incomes, drug and alcohol abuse and social isolation and vulnerability all play a role.

Depression affects both men and women, all ethnicities and adults and children. 1 in 4 women will experience depression, while 1 in 6 men will go through an episode at some point in their life. Due to the stigma and the taboo nature of depression, this mental disorder has gone relatively unnoticed in the past. With help from media attention it is now receiving much needed public attention.

There are three major types of depression that are diagnosed by mental health professionals.

Non-melancholic depression or clinical depression:

This is the most common form of depression. The nature of non-melancholic depression is thought to be psychological in origin, which is in stark difference to the other less well known and rare forms of this mental illness. This is a difficult form to diagnose as the boundaries of its symptoms are not well defined as opposed to the two other forms of depression which are discussed next.

Some common symptoms of clinical depression are:

- a depressed mood extending for a period of more than two weeks
- loss of interest in activities they were previously pleasurable
- low, miserable and/or sad feelings remaining through-out the day

The second less well known, and even less diagnosed form is melancholic depression. This form in contrast with clinical depression has its origins in biological factors. Individuals suffering from this illness are a minority with only 1 - 2% being diagnosed.

Common symptoms are:

- severe sleep disturbance
- marked changes in appetite and weight gain or loss
- changes in cognitive performance such as memory, concentration and problem solving.
- distinct loss of pleasure from activities that were previously found to be pleasurable

The third form is psychotic depression which is the most rare form of depression and is characterised by symptoms that share similarities with severe clinical depression and schizophrenia including:

- extreme depressed mood and loss of interest in pleasurable past-times
- hallucinations, psycho-motor problems and delusional thinking
- severe sleep disturbances

Depression is a wide-spread mental illness that may be affecting a loved one, friend or work colleague. On outward appearances it may be hard to tell if someone is suffering from depression. Certain risk factors are responsible for determining if a person will suffer from depression with women being at higher risk than men. If you are the one suffering, then hopefully this guide has given you an insight into what it is you may be experiencing. Take hope that treatments are available and many are discussed in articles on this site.

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