Learn About Depression
We all know what it’s like to feel extremely sad or even dejected at times. This may be due to something that we had counted on not coming through, such as a promotion or award, not being included in an event or party, or perhaps the end of a relationship. While we frequently use the word depression for such occurrences, for example, “I’m so depressed because he didn’t call last night,” these types of feelings are a normal part of life and are transient. For some people, however, feelings of sadness, pessimism, misery, and hopelessness are far more severe and last for much longer than what we all experience from time to time.
Major Depressive Disorder includes periods of time where the individual is depressed on more days than not, for the majority of the day. Often the depression is worse in the morning, though it is experienced as distressing throughout the day and can get in the way of the individual being able to sleep. Major depressive episodes last for at least two weeks and may remit shortly after this time period or continue for a longer duration. Due to the fact that major depression tends to go away and come back, many people fail to seek treatment, figuring that if it went away once it will go away again. However, even when the symptoms of depression go away, the experience is so negative that the person often experiences a great deal of anxiety as they worry about the next episode and when it may occur. Thus, even when the depressive feelings are no longer there and the individual returns to a more stable mood state, the presence of anxiety precludes the ability to experience a break from distressing symptoms. This often makes each subsequent episode worse. In addition, one of the hallmarks of depression is the loss of pleasure in activities and interactions. This means that what was once enjoyed and served to take the person’s mind off of their troubles is no longer available to help level out their mood.
The symptoms of major depressive disorder are not part of a normally occurring mood state and you do not have to suffer any longer. At Lakeland, we are here to provide you with the compassion, support, and treatment you need to feel better and to be able to move on to establish a happy and fulfilling life.
According to the most recent data, the prevalence rate of major depressive disorder in the U.S. has been estimated at about 7%. Yet differences between gender and age groups exist. While rates of depression in boys and girls are similar, differences begin to emerge in adolescence. At this point the rate for females is approximately 1.5 to 3 times greater than the estimated rates for men. Regarding age, the estimated prevalence rate for those between the ages of 18 and 29 is 3 times greater than the rate found in those over the age of 59.
Depression and Co-Occurring Disorders
Depression rarely occurs alone and has been found to co-occur with practically all psychiatric, substance abuse, and physical disorders and conditions. Some of the more common disorders that co-occur with depression include:
- Substance related disorders
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
- Borderline personality disorder
- ADHD in childhood
- ODD in childhood
- Separation anxiety in children
Causes and Risk Factors for Depression
While no individual cause has been identified for depression, a number of factors have been acknowledged that contribute to the development of the disorder. These include:
Genetic- Depression is more likely to develop in individuals who have a family history that includes at least one first-degree relative with the disorder. While research has identified several genes that have been linked to depression, most experts believe that there are likely numerous genetic influences that interact with each other as well as the environment that contribute to the formation of depression.
Environmental Influences – A number of environmental factors and stressors have been linked to the development of depression, especially when the individual is exposed to several such factors over the course of their life or when the symptoms are uncontrollable and unpredictable, leading to a sense of learned helplessness. This means the individual believes there is no reason to make any effort to change things since they believe that nothing ever works when they do so. This state of mind increases the likelihood of suicide.
Brain Chemistry and Structures –It has been shown that many individuals with depression have specific areas of the brain that don’t function properly. In particular, areas involved in sleep, appetite, mood, thought, and behavioral inhibition have been implicated. In addition, chemical messengers in the brain, specifically levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine which are associated with the experience of pleasure and happiness, appear to be unbalanced in individuals with depression.
Nutritional Factors– It is recognized that individuals who are malnourished or who don’t eat the proper nutrients are at risk for depression. Two factors that have been determined to be linked to depression in some individuals are Folate and B12 deficiencies.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
There are numerous signs and symptoms of depression that fall within the areas of mood, behavior, cognition, social, and physical. Common symptoms of depression include:
- Lowered productivity at school, work, or other performance related settings
- Depressed mood or intense sadness
- Inability to experience pleasure in things that used to be enjoyable
- Agitation or slowed movement
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, or guilt
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Hopelessness that the future will ever become better
- Feeling ineffectual, as if they are incapable of doing anything to change their life in a positive manner
- Thoughts about death or suicide
- Inability to think logically
- Trouble concentrating, paying attention, or making decisions
- Slowed thoughts and speech
- Withdrawing from friends and family and avoidance of social situations
- Eating more or less than usual
Effects of Depression
Similar to the large number of depression symptoms, there are also numerous effects of depression in terms of the ways the condition may affect someone’s life and ability to function.
- Inability to generate coping strategies
- Use of substances in an effort to self-medicate
- Social problems due to social rejection and/or social isolation
- Marital discord, divorce
- Reflection over losses in life resulting in a worsening of symptoms and subsequent anxiety
- Interpersonal problems due to being unable to concentrate on conversations, lack of desire to interact socially, or the belief no one will want to be around them
- Lowered self-concept, sense of self-worth
- Self- harm
- Suicidal ideation and behavior
- Physical pain especially headaches and stomach pain
- Unemployment or expulsion from school due to lack of ability to perform up to expectations
- Depressed immune system functioning, which can lead to physical illness
- Physical, emotional, and psychological problems and increased severity of depression symptoms due to chronic sleep deprivation
- Decreased sexual desire and arousal