What is Depression?
Trigger warning – this blog post talks about suicide.
When looking at mental health, I think one of the most commonly known mental health conditions is depression, but there may still be a lot that is unknown about the specifics of it. Therefore, in this blog post I will be looking at what the symptoms of depression are along with the causes and treatments for it.
Firstly, I think it is important to look into why depression should be understood. Globally, more than 264 million people have depression, and it is the leading cause of disability. Depression can also lead to suicide, and in 2018 there were 6,507 suicides in the UK (an increase of nearly 11%), with men three times more likely to die by suicide than women. I think depression is discussed more within society now, including in the media and in television shows, but the specifics of what it exactly is may not be fully understood by some people.
Everyone experiences being unhappy or feeling down sometimes, but depression is more than this; someone who has depression feels persistently sad for weeks or months. The symptoms of depression can be put into three categories – psychological, physical, and social. Psychological symptoms can include having a continuous low mood or feeling sad, feeling irritable or being intolerant of others, feeling tearful or guilt-ridden, finding it difficult to make decisions, feeling anxious or worried, feeling helpless or hopeless, and having low self-esteem. Other psychological symptoms include having no interest or motivation to do things, not getting any enjoyment out of life, and having thoughts about harming yourself or having suicidal thoughts.
Physical symptoms of depression can include having a lack of energy, changes in weight or appetite, speaking or moving more slowly than usual, or having disturbed sleep such as waking up early in the morning or finding it difficult to fall asleep at night. The social symptoms can include neglecting interests and hobbies, avoiding contact with friends and not taking part in social activities, and having difficulties in home, family, or work life. These symptoms are not exhaustive and more information about them can be found in the references section.
The causes of depression vary between different people and so there is no one single cause. It can occur for many different reasons and have a variety of triggers, and for some people there is no obvious reason for why they have it. There is evidence that shows that people who have difficult experiences in their childhood can be more vulnerable to experiencing depression in later life. Such experiences could be having an unstable family situation, being abused, experiencing a traumatic event, or losing a person close to you. Life events can also be the cause of depression, as it can be triggered by a stressful or traumatic event such as becoming unemployed, suffering a bereavement, being assaulted, or going through a big life change such as moving house.
It has also been found that if a person goes through lots of smaller experiences that are challenging to them, this can have a larger impact on their vulnerability to having depression than experiencing one major traumatic event. It is not just certain experiences that can cause a person to have depression, but also how a person deals with them; a person’s support network can be a factor as if they don’t have a lot of support to help them cope with such events, depression can develop from a low mood.
Most people who have depression can make a full recovery if they receive the right support and treatment. The treatment given to a person depends on the type of depression they have; mild, moderate, or severe. Usually a combination of self-help, talking therapies and medicines are involved. Seeing a GP is usually the first step in being diagnosed with depression and from there treatment can be undertaken. My next blog post will look at treatments for depression in more depth, but there are more details and support information in the links within the references section.
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