By definition, depression is a form of mental illness. It is a mental disorder characterized by a bleak perspective on life, persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and helplessness, guilt, fatigue, lethargy and numbness. It is believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but studies show nutritional deficiencies, dietary and lifestyle habits can trigger the onset of the disorder or worsen an existing condition. Depression is a form of severe mental illness that warps one’s perspective on life into a gloomy, dark outlook, dulls down the ability to feel, marginalizes and impacts emotional stability affecting every aspect of life.
What is depression? It is also known as clinical depression or major depressive disorder. Essentially, depression is a form of mental illness affecting mood, hence its classification as a mood disorder. It is a severe form of mental illness that affects people indiscriminately, but can take many forms. In children and teenagers, it may manifest as isolation, irritability and anxious feelings and is often caused by difficulty fitting in with peers. Depression in adults can appear as lethargy, lack of motivation, extreme tiredness, feelings of numbness. Bot have various causes.
What is depression caused by?
The disorder is rarely caused by a single factor. Most of the time, various risk factors accumulate and build up into the multifaceted condition that is depression. Genetics, environmental factors, diet, lifestyle, traumatic events, family problems, other existing medical conditions and the medicines taken to treat them all play a part in the onset and evolution of depression. But while depression can occur at any moment and insinuate little by little in your life, it is more likely to be triggered and worsened by stressful events.
Here are some of the most common causes and risk factors for depression:
1) Genetic predisposition (a family history of depression).
2) Physical illness (being diagnosed with an incurable disease).
3) Other mental disorders (anxiety increases the risk for depression).
4) Stress, continual, coming from multiple areas of your life.
Examples: unemployment, lack of medical insurance, having difficult people in your life.
5) Trauma (injury, birth, death of a loved one, disease, anything that can be perceived as traumatic).
6) Lack of stability (changing jobs, homes, family, divorce).
7) Neglect, abuse, bullying, addiction (major triggers in children, teenagers, young adults).
8) Lack of understanding or support regarding the condition.
9) Lack of access to medication and therapies.
10) Other medicines (some medicines increase the risk for depression).
11) Nutritional deficiencies (magnesium deficiency in particular).
Any of the above mentioned factors can constitute depression triggers or worsen an existing condition and should be analyzed closely and existing problems remedied for treatment to be successful. However, one of the biggest issues with depression is the stigma and misinformation surrounding it. As such, many people lack the essential knowledge to identify the signs and symptoms of the disorder. Moreover, depression is different for everyone and doesn’t fall into a stereotypical line-up of symptoms, hence the difficulty of the situation. Learning to identify the symptoms of depression and how the disorder may manifest in different individuals based on triggering factors represents the first step in providing that person with the help they need to overcome their condition.
List of depression symptoms
What are the signs and symptoms you have depression? Depression is a highly individual disease and it takes a considerate heart and an intuitive mind to spot it. If you observe several of the following behaviors in someone close to you, consider them warning signs for depression and offer your support and encourage the person to seek the help of a medical professional:
1) Extreme sadness alternating with feelings of emptiness.
2) Apathy, lethargy, general lack of motivation, numbness.
3) Sleeping problems, either insomnia or excessive sleeping.
4) Lack of self-worth, feelings of unworthiness or guilt.
5) Distorted view of oneself and others.
Example: believing others will belittle what they feel.
6) Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worry, gloomy perspective on life.
7) Difficulty focusing, brain fog, mental fatigue, trouble remembering things.
8) Tiredness, fatigue, slower reactions (thinking and moving).
9) Appetite changes, lack of appetite in particular, weight fluctuations.
10) Purposeful isolation from friends, family, colleagues.
11) Inability to find joy in activities that once brought happiness.
12) Periods of irritability, anger, restlessness, other personality changes.
Example: teenagers may become more temperamental, insecure.
13) Pain: headaches, migraines, muscle aches, abdominal discomfort.
14) Extreme thoughts, reckless behavior.
What to look out for in people with depression. Anyone suffering from depression will most likely experience several of the symptoms listed above, but the condition itself may appear different in different people. So when looking out for these behaviors, it is important to relate to what the person was like before you started noticing changes and how dramatically these changes have impacted their life. For instance, insecurities, moodiness or fleeting moments of sadness may be expected in a teenager, but isolation from friends and family, utter lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable or feelings of guilt or unworthiness can constitute warning signs. Also, it is important to keep in mind that depressive episodes can last from 2 weeks up to 6 months, so know it will take patience to help a dear one through them.
Treating depression starts with adopting the right attitude towards the disorder itself and towards the person dealing with it. With this in mind, know that being unnecessarily indelicate with people’s feelings and worries or impatient with the evolution of things could worsen the condition and derail the recovery of someone with depression.
So here is what to never say or do to someone with depression:
1) Do not refuse to acknowledge depression is a real disease with real impact.
2) Do not mock mental health or belittle mental disorders.
3) Do not dismiss depression is affecting a person dear to you.
They may be relying on your support and understanding more than you could imagine.
4) Do not plant blame on anyone. Depression happens to anyone.
5) Do not refuse support or access to treatment and helpful therapies.
Make yourself available, emotionally and in any way possible.
What is the best treatment for depression?
Medication and various therapies, unconditional support and patience are all essential tools that make up the most effective, rounded treatment for depression.
1) Medicines like antidepressants, tailored to individual needs.
If someone close to you is on antidepressants, watch them closely to see if they experience side effects.
2) Counseling, psychotherapy, support groups, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation.
3) Dietary supplements: Omega-3, fish oils, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin D supplementation.
4) Lifestyle changes: manage depression by engaging in light physical exercise, stop smoking, avoid alcohol, coffee, caffeinated beverages, energy drinks etc.
5) Educate yourself and close ones on depression and make efforts to get better.
Make those close to you aware of your depression, ask for and accept help, voice your needs, set realistic goals with regards to your recovery, mend problematic aspects of your life, avoid triggers, eat well and do your best not to isolate yourself.
Having depression is difficult for everyone mainly because it is not an acute disease that can be resolved once and for all. Everyone who has experienced it will tell you that it lingers. Even when you feel better, start to gain hope and find some happiness or fulfillment, there is always the taste of it, the fear of it returning or not having gone at all. Depression can come back and this makes it scary and causes those suffering from it to thread lightly. If someone close to you is dealing with depression, make a commitment to be there for them, to be understanding and patient and make yourself available. If you are suffering from depression, I can tell you from experience that it is rewarding to open up and accept help, stay strong and keep fighting.