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What is Depression? What Causes Depression? Symptoms of Depression

Updated on July 4, 2016

Depression is a mental health disorder with a variety of emotional, physical, and associated symptoms. There are many different types of Depression ranging from mild to severe. Perhaps Depression is best known for the overwhelming sense of sadness and isolation a person suffering feels. While everybody has these emotions from time to time a person with Depression experiences them most of the time. It can last for weeks, months, or even years at a time if left untreated.

A Few Types of Depression

Clinical Depression also known as Major Depressive Disorder lasts for at least two weeks at a time. Symptoms may cycle meaning the episodes may disappear only to reappear with or without cause. The long term feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and maybe even guilt can lead him/her to longing for death perhaps even committing suicide.

Dysthymic Disorder is a milder form of depression. However, the symptoms are chronic and can be just as deadly.

Postpartum Depression is a pretty commonly known type of depression. It occurs with hormone changes women face after the birth of a child. Most cases are very mild and do not require treatment as it will go away on its own. However, there are cases when Postpartum Depression can become Postpartum Psychosis. If symptoms worsen or do not go away after a while the woman should seek help from her doctor or a psychiatrist.

Bipolar Disorder has interchangeable episodes of depression and hypomania/mania. It is not uncommon for it to be diagnosed as depression in early stages.

Atypical Depression has the symptoms of all other types, however, moods change positive when good things do occur.

What Causes Depression?

Several different factors are implemented in the cause of Depression. Most of the time it is caused by multiple factors combined. Some causes known are family history, hormone changes, and outside problems such as trouble in relationships or money.

The physical cause is believed to be a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is caused by the bodies failure to produce enough dopamine, serotonin, and/or norepinephrine. These are neurotransmitters which are responsible for communication between brain cells.

Symptoms of Depression

There are many emotional, physical, and associated symptoms of Depression. These symptoms vary in severity and from person to person.

Emotional symptoms may include sadness and/or simply not caring. The person may feel guilty, worthless, isolated, hopeless, helpless, or empty. He/She may be pessimistic and resentful. The person may inactively (take foolish risks with no regards for consequences) or actively(suicidal) seek death.

Physical symptoms often take form as changes in sleep patterns, feeling restless, and lack of energy. It is also common for the person to have problems with memory, concentration, and decision making.

Associated symptoms can be chronic pain with or without reason. Also anxiety and tearfulness or even feeling lost or unlike themselves.

The symptoms cause and are caused by the person’s negative thought patterns and each other throwing the person into a vicious cycle. For instance, the deep down emotional pain he/she experiences lose interest in activities they would normally enjoy. Including social activity. The lack of social interaction makes him/her feel isolated which increases the sadness.

Diagnosis for Depression

If Depression is suspected it is a good idea to discuss the issue with your doctor as soon as possible. As with anything else the sooner the diagnosis the easier it will be to treat.

There is no lab test to determine Depression. However, a physical and lab tests will likely be prescribed to make sure nothing else is causing the symptoms. If no other factors are determined to be the cause you will then be referred to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist.

After discussing family and medical history, the specialist will discuss your symptoms and the length of time suffered. Based on the self report and the specialists own observations diagnosis can be determined.

Treatments for Depression

The most common treatment for Depression is medication, usually antidepressant. Antidepressants increase the production of necessary chemicals in the brain.

Usually, medicine is complemented by psychotherapy also known as “talk therapy”. The two kinds of psychotherapy are cognitive-behavior therapy and interpersonal therapy. Cognitive-behavior therapy helps the person to alter their negative ways of thinking therefore helping to break the depressive cycle. Interpersonal therapy helps the person to work on a problematic relationship which may have caused or tends to worsen depression. Sometimes both types may be needed.

In extreme cases ECT(shock therapy) may be used. Though it has a bad reputation ECT is painless and has only a few short term possible side effects. The number of treatments is determined by the patients own needs and reaction to it.

Natural Treatments for Depression

There are several natural treatments for Depression. Dietary supplements and herbal therapy are two very popular alternatives to medicine. Other possibilities include yoga, meditation, acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, chiropractic, hypnosis, relaxation, and even music therapy.

A healthy lifestyle can greatly decrease symptoms of Depression. Sunshine, exercise, a healthy well balanced diet, and proper sleep patterns is proven to make people in general feel happier and more relaxed.

Other tips include excepting help whether professional or personal and setting realistic manageable tasks which will give a sense of accomplishment.


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    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Depression is difficult to identify in ourselves. It often takes someone else pointing out what they see in us, at least that is how it was for me. I had all the signs you have listed here, but thought something was physically wrong with me. When a friend pointed out that she thought I was depressed, I first went to a regular doctor to prove her wrong! Now, I tell people that is the best thing to do first, go to a regular doctor and have a complete physical to make sure there aren't any underlying issues that can mimic depression. If all checks out, then get a referral for mental health treatment.


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