Depression Causes and Treatment
All of us have our good and bad times. Days when we are happy, days when we are sad. Sometimes these changes can occur from one hour to the next, or may last for many days. They may be associated with hormonal changes that occur during a woman's menstrual cycle or with menopause. Fortunately, most of us bounce back fairly quickly, and our periods of unhappiness are not too prolonged. Others are not so lucky, and may be depressed for weeks or months on end. Prolonged depression can be broadly defined as falling into one of two categories - reactive or endogenous depression. Those who suffer from endogenous depression (also known as affective depression) can find no reason at all for their constant state of unhappiness. They slowly become sadder and sadder, more irritable, unable to sleep, lose appetite and weight, and may feel there is no purpose in living. They may feel unnecessarily guilty, have a very poor opinion of themselves, feel life is hopeless and find it difficult to think or concentrate. After several months they usually improve, but sometimes it can take years. When they do start to improve, some patients with depression go too far the other way and become over-happy or manic. These patients are said to be manic depressives or have bipolar (generally severe swings of mood) or cyclothymic (milder mood changes) disorder.
People with endogenous depression are not able to pull themselves together and overcome the depression without medical aid. Certainly, a determination to improve the situation helps the outcome, but like other diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure, these patients require regular medication to control their disease. Depression in these cases is due to an imbalance of chemicals that normally occur in the brain to control mood. If too much of one chemical is produced, the patient becomes depressed - if too much of another, the patient becomes manic. So, as with other chronic diseases, it is necessary for doctors to alter this balance by giving medications that can control the production or activity of the depressing chemicals. With appropriate medication, a patient can progress from the depths of depression to normal life in a few weeks. Most of the antidepressant drugs do not work quickly, so patients and relatives should not expect an overnight recovery. Hospitalization in order to use high doses of drugs or other treatments, and to protect the patient from the possibility of suicide, is sometimes necessary when the disease is first diagnosed.
Reactive depression is the sadness that occurs after a death in the family, loss of a job, a marriage break-up or other disaster. You are depressed for a definite reason, and with time, you will be able to cope with the situation yourself. Some patients do require medical help, but only until the worst reaction to the situation has passed.
The worst problem with untreated depression is suicide, and this can be seen as a desperate plea for help in many people. The disease may not be detected or treated until a radical attempt to end life has occurred. Depression is not a fashionable disease, and as a result, many people delay in asking for help until it is too late. But it is a disease, not just a state of mind, and there are very effective methods of treatment available for it.
There are no blood tests or brain scans that can be performed to diagnose depression, and the diagnosis must depend on the clinical acumen of the doctor and information supplied by the patient, relatives and friends.
Medication and counseling by a general practitioner or psychiatrist will control the vast majority of cases. The other form of treatment used is shock therapy.
This has been surrounded by some controversy in the past but is a safe and often very effective method of giving relief to patients with severe chronic depression.
If you have this readily treated disease, but have avoided seeking treatment or have stopped treatment, you are wasting your life. Discuss it with your doctor. The doctor is not going to laugh at or about you, but will arrange to bring you back to leading a full and happy life.
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