Depression – Causes, Symptoms, Tests, Types, Treatment

Not all the people affected with depression would be sad and low with energy. Depression is a disorder that may affect your way of thinking and modify your mood. Depression is of many types and every person would not react in the same manner while affected with depression. For some it may affect routine activities and give a sense of hopelessness and loss of interest. They may feel that there is nothing worth to live anymore. It can also create various ranges of physical and emotional problems. It may affect healthy relationships and reputation at workplace.

Depression would not resolve without treatment and most of the symptoms can be managed by medications. Depression is not a disease and hence you can do nothing to prevent it. Depression is likely to occur due to certain biological factors and imbalance of chemicals in your brain on which you have absolutely no control. Why only some people undergo depression is still a mystery.

Depression Symptoms :

Depression can cause unhappiness, feelings of sadness, tiredness, lack of energy, loss of interest, frustration, and reduced sex drive, changes in appetite, change in weight, anxiety and frequent thoughts about death. Some people may feel worthless most of the time and think there is no meaning in life. They may have trouble in concentrating and making decisions. It can also cause frequent physical as well as emotional problems. In extreme cases, depressed people make suicide attempts seriously and sometimes they may succeed. For some people symptoms are severe and obvious and for others signs are subtle and they remain gloomy for reasons unknown.

Types of Depression :

To treat an individual having depression, the doctor would identify the type of depression using certain features.

  • Major Depression :

This type of people would lose interest in activities that gave pleasure before (like sex or watching movies etc.). It can cause sudden loss of weight or gain. They might have trouble in getting to sleep or some people would feel sleepy most of the day. They would become tired and lose energy and feel “slowed down” for unknown reasons. They may have problems in taking decisions. In extreme cases they may get thoughts of suicide.

  • Persistent Depression :

It is also known as chronic (long lasting) depression which may last for many years. This type of people may lack energy, may have low self esteem and change in appetite. They would have problems in getting quality sleep and might have trouble in making decisions due to low concentration. This type of depression affects millions of people around the globe and it can be managed with medications and therapy.

  • Bipolar Disorder :

Also known as manic depression, bipolar signifies two major extremes of mood. The person affected with this disorder may show elevated mood followed by depressive phase. Mood stabilizers are often given for treating bipolar disorder.

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder :

SAD is not categorized under major type of depression. This can happen to millions of people during winter months when there is less sunlight. Taking antidepressants and therapy can help in improving the mood.

  • Psychotic Depression :

A person with this kind of depression may show psychotic signs like seeing unusual things or hearing voices of non-existent people. They would be in a state of paranoia (doubtful) and worried.

  • Postpartum Depression :

This is the type of depression that occurs to women after childbirth. They would be in a state of glue and can easily be treated with antidepressant medications.

  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Depression :

Many women may get into depressive mood before the onset of menstrual cycle each month. It can cause anxiety, change in mood, irritability, trouble in getting sleep and tiredness.

  • Atypical Depression :

People with this depression will not have any sad feeling or hopelessness. Their mood often gets elevated with some positive events. They might show signs like overly sleepy, oversensitive and eating too much and feeling heavy.


Symptoms of Depression in Children :

Even children may develop depression due to change in brain activities. They would show symptoms like irritability, persistent sadness, clinginess, frequent complaint about body pain and frequent absence to school. Teenagers may show signs of irritability, hopelessness, anger, poor performance at school, avoiding friends and social interaction. They may start eating too much and may spend more time for sleeping. Depression may occur along with other mental disorders like ADHD, anxiety disorder and eating disorders.

  • In Elderly People :

Depression can be identified in old people through symptoms like change in personality, withdrawal from society, loss of appetite, loss of interest, avoiding social interaction and suicidal thoughts.

Causes Of Depression :

Exact cause of depression is still an unsolved puzzle. It is considered to develop due to many factors like change or imbalance of hormones, imbalance in chemicals of brain, sudden physical changes in your brain and due to traumatic events in life. Everyone will be in depressed mood if sudden death of loved ones occurs. But you should see that your mood swing should not affect your routine activities.

Who Are At Risk?

  • Depression is believed to start in teens but it may happen at any age. Adolescents will undergo plenty of physical and emotional changes which can cause imbalance in hormones.
  • People with a history of depression or other mental disorders are likely to develop depression.
  • Death or loss of loved ones can cause depression.
  • Serious conflicts in family can trigger symptoms of depression.
  • Individuals who are physically abused or sexually abused can develop depression easily.
  • Long term use of certain medications can cause depression. Prolonged use of alcohol and substance can also trigger depression symptoms.
  • Chronic illness like cancer, AIDS or heart disease can induce depression.

Complications :

Depression can cause serious impact on your relationships at family and office. You may put on more weight or may become addicted to alcohol. Severe stage of depression can invoke suicidal thoughts and even attempts.


Depression Tests :

Based on the symptoms your doctor would initially request for complete blood test and other basic tests to rule out any physiological problems. He would refer to a psychiatrist who would give you a questionnaire and based on your answers he would make the diagnosis. According to the DSM manual of psychiatric disorders, one should have at least one or two symptoms given below to be diagnosed for depression.

  • Loss of interest in activities that causes pleasure
  • Feeling sad or in depressed mood (for unknown reason)
  • Increased desire to sleep
  • Feeling hopeless and getting slowed down
  • Trouble in making decisions and difficulty in concentration
  • Repeated thoughts of suicide and attempts of suicide

Depression Treatment :

Based on the type of depression, your psychiatrist would prescribe medications. SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the popular drugs for treating depression. Drugs like fluoxtine, paroxetine or citalopram are effective. For some people, SNRI drugs like cymbalta or effexor XR are given. Antidepressant medications like trazodone or mirtazapine are also prescribed. You need to talk to your doctor about the possible side effects.

Tricyclic antidepressants like Tofranil would produce fewer side effects when compared to other drugs. If other drugs are not suitable for you, your doctor may prescribe monamine oxidase inhibitors like tranylcypromine or phenelzine. Often your doctor may combine two medications for getting maximum improvement in mood.

One difficulty in treating depression is it takes time for finding the right set of drugs. A set of drugs effective for one person may not produce the desired changes for the other. It might take several weeks or even months for your doctor to find the right set of medications for you. Never stop taking antidepressant drugs abruptly. If your doctor feels so, he would taper the drugs before he stops it. Pregnant women should avoid taking antidepressants since it can cause health hazards to the fetus. Taking antidepressant drugs can cause increased suicidal thoughts. If there is any change in behavior or mood, you should report it to your doctor promptly.

  • Psychotherapy :

There are variety of methods in psychotherapy like cognitive behavior, dialectic behavior and commitment therapy. These techniques would help you to adjust effectively to a crisis and make modifications in your behavior. Gradually you will develop positive thoughts and identify issues that trigger depression. You will learn to tolerate distress and gain satisfaction in taking control of your life. In severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy is given by passing controlled rate of electric currents into the brain. Similarly magnetic stimulation method can also be used for stimulating the brain cells that triggers mood swings.

Lifestyle Changes :

You should understand that depression needs to be treated and it will not resolve on its own. Stick on to your medications and treatment even if you are fine since stopping the antidepressants can worsen the symptoms. Don’t ignore warning signals and discuss with your doctor frankly. Avoid drinking and practice exercise regularly. This can help in enhancing your mood for sure. Get enough of sleep. Some people use St. John’s wort (an herbal remedy) for treating depression. Join yoga class or meditation which can help in improving the quality of life.

Prevention :

There is no way you can prevent getting depression, since it is believed to be caused by changes in brain chemicals. Pay attention to warning signs and stay close to your family and relations.

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