Depression is a very common psychiatric disorder. According to World Health Organization report (WHO, 2016), about 350 million people are affected by depression. Untreated depression leads to decreased productivity, affects interpersonal relationships, alcohol, and substance abuse, and in extreme cases, to suicide. Depression can affect at any age group, from infants to the elderly. Hence, it is very necessary that you identify the signs of depression and take early interventions.
Signs and symptoms of depression:
- Mood symptoms: Low mood, irritability, anger outbursts, crying spells, feeling very low in the morning hours
- Decreased interest in usually pleasurable activities like hobbies, work, socialization
- Low energy, easy fatigability
- Decreased attention and concentration
- Disturbed sleep and appetite
- Weight gain or loss
- Thoughts of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, guilt, sin
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Decreased libido
- Anxiety symptoms like panic attacks worry etc.
In depression, most of these symptoms will be present together, for at least > 2 weeks. Depression can be an independent disorder or a part of Bipolar affective disorder, in which cases treatment will differ.
Depression in childhood and adolescents:
At times, children and adolescents present depression differently than in adults. They may not complain of depression but commonly present with decreased academic performance or refusal to go to school, irritability or anger outbursts, decreased interaction with family and friends or spending more time in solitary activities like on mobile or laptop, disturbed sleep and appetite, headaches and other bodily complaints etc.
Depression in women:
At any given point, females are more prone to depression than males. The most vulnerable periods are between 15-30 years of age, during pregnancy and after delivery and around menopause.
Causes of depression:
- Biological, due to neurotransmitter imbalance.
- Social: Death of close family members or friends, divorce or separation, loss of a job or financial loss, immigration or relocation to different places, major natural disasters like earthquakes, following war etc.
- Physical illness: Hypothyroidism, stroke, heart attack, diabetes, cancer and its treatment, organ transplantation etc.
Both medication and psychotherapies like cognitive-behaviour therapy, interpersonal therapy, and others are effective in treating depression. The best results are obtained with the combination of medication and therapy. You need to continue it for at least 4-6 months to sustain the effects and prevent relapse.
To summarize, depression is a common disorder. Identifying it correctly and proper treatment will improve your overall mental and physical health, your relationships and your productivity and efficiency in the long run. Be happy :).