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Depression, It’s Causes, And The Best Treatments Available

What is depression?

The word “depression” can be used in many ways. To most people, depression is a mood that may last from hours to years, marked by sadness, tiredness, lethargy, and changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and sexual desire. The word can also be used in a casual way as a synonym of disappointment or dejection, as mildly as as “I was depressed that my favorite team lost the game last Sunday” to as sever as “I was depressed that my mother died”. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors use the term depression in a much more specific way, to denote one of several mood disorders that can be diagnosed and treated. Classification schemes differ by country, time period, and medical standards used, but there are generally two main types of depression recognized by professionals:

  • Dysthymia – Dysthymia (which may also be called persistent depressive disorder) is a less severe type of depression, but the symptoms typically last for longer. You could describe dysthymia as a decreased mood, and a chronic disorder that some sufferers will not recognize as a disorder, but may consider to just be part of their personality. Generally, people suffering from dysthymia will suffer from a low mood, a feeling of being helpless, low (or high) appetite, feelings of worthlessness or low self esteem, sleeping too little or too much, and a loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy (sex being particularly notable). People who are diagnosed by dysthymia must meet a certain specific set of symptoms for two years or more. Someone with Dysthymia may be seen by themselves or others as not suffering from a disorder, but just sort of a “downer” in personality.
  • Major Depressive Disorder – As the name indicates, Major Depressive Disorder is the more serious of the two main types of depression. You can think of it as having most of the same symptoms of Dysthymia, but just much more severe, and sometimes with other symptoms being present, such as false beliefs or hallucination. Someone with Major Depressive Disorder, as opposed to Dysthymia, may experience a complete loss of all pleasure (as opposed to dysthymia, where there is just a general loss of interest). The low self esteem of helplessness experienced in Dysthymia may be experienced by someone with Major Depressive Disorder as an obsession with their own worthlessness, hatred of self, an overpowering feeling of guilt about decisions that do not warrant it, and suicidal ideation. This type of depression also has many subtypes, including Atypical Depression, where the sufferer experiences some enjoyment in activity as well as other diagnostic differences, Catatonic Depression in which the sufferer is so despondent that they become catatonic, Seasonal Affective Disorder in which the depression appears or worsens with the change in seasons, and several other types.

Mood Swings

Who suffers from depression?

Anyone can suffer from depression, but there are some differences in rates based on age, sex, nation of residence, and other factors. It is not well understood what might be the cause of these differences, but women tend to suffer from Major Depressive Disorder more than men, and diagnosis has been increasing in recent years in most countries. In The United States, about 17% of the population will experience a Major Depressive Episode at some point in their lives. In Japan, the rate of the same disorder is much lower, only 3%.

What causes depression?

Experts are split about the causes of depression. Many practitioners recognize that there is very likely a genetic factor involved, as depression seems to run in families, and studies of twins have found that identical twins (sharing 100% of their DNA) are more likely to share their diagnosis or lack of it than two fraternal twins (sharing only 50% of their DNA). This doesn’t mean that it is entirely genetic, and DNA could even prove to be a very minor component. Quality of social support systems, abuse, and stress due to major life events (such as the death of a pet, friend, or family member) are noted and obvious contributors to depression.

What treatments for depression are available?

Today, many treatment options are available for depression. One of the most common is medication. There are many types of medications, and the most widely available are of a class called SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). As with any medication, there are side effects, which impact some people more than others, and many people try a few different medications before they find one that works for them. Therapies such as talk therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and group therapy has also provided relief to many. In extreme cases, electroshock therapy has been used with great success. Several new types of therapies are under investigation as well. For example Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, in which a magnetic pulse is applied to the brain, has shown some success. Ketamine, an anesthetic and recreational drug, has been shown in some trials to relieve depression symptoms almost immediately when administered in a clinical setting by a professional. The FDA recently approve a drug called esketamine (which is nearly equivalent to ketamine) in nasal spray form for treatment of depression.

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7 Comments

  • At the age of 3, my father walked out of my life. Then at 7, the only other “manly” figure, my uncle, passed away. 3 years later my aunt passed. My mother was so lost in her own grief she wasn’t there to raise me. Some days it’s hard to do anything, Getting out of bed is an achievement. Living with depression is hard, but pushing threw it is the only option to get out of it.

  • I became depressed when I was diagnosed with Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome, a disease that impacts men. Living with pain, every single day, and trying to maintain your happiness, and your lifestyle, became a weight at times that was tough to bear. I crawled in a dark hole, lived under a rock for several months, trying to figure out how to live with this affliction. Doing better, figuring out how to live with this, but my life will never be the same.

  • I’ve been suffering from anxiety and depression for years. I’m not bipolar but sometimes I get really sad for no reason and I have no interests in anything. I just want to lay down and do nothing. I don’t enjoy food, television, going out- anything. I dislike myself a lot when I’m depressed and I constantly criticize and put myself down. I’ve been in a relationship for three years now and I was so scared and embarrassed to tell him about my depression. Luckily, he was understanding and it didn’t affect our relationship but I know sometimes he gets upset when I’m depressed. He thinks it’s his fault and that he’s not doing enough to make me happy. I try to explain to him that is has nothing to do with him but he’s still insecure about it which stresses me out which ends up making me more depressed. It’s a never ending battle and medication doesn’t help all that much. I get bad side effects so I hate taking it.

  • I developed depression during my young adult life when I didn’t leave enough time for myself or the things I enjoyed while trying to juggle 2 jobs and full time college classes. I have not developed suicidal ideations or thoughts of self harm, just a melancholy feeling that took months to go away

  • I grew up in a very abusive family situation, and as a result developed no self esteem or any healthy ideas about what relationships should be like. I found a boyfriend who “rescued” me from this family situation, but he was just as abusive as my family had been, and was a mentally ill drug addict on top of it all. After 13 years with him, he committed suicide and left me completely alone. I had no idea how to live, and had no coping skills or anyone to turn to for help. I have had to learn to get through each day alone, and try to stay strong because there must be some higher meaning for all the suffering I’ve been through. But sometimes I doubt this, and I go through cycles where I feel like there is no reason for making any effort at all. Life is an exhausting struggle.

  • I have been living with depression for most of my life, and it hasn’t been easy. When I was younger, I even attempted suicide due to not being able to handle how I felt. As a young adult, and to the present time, depression has cost me a lot of things. There have been many times when I could not pull myself out of bed to go to work or go out with friends. I have felt so hopeless and listless that nothing mattered, and laying there blankly was the only thing that I wanted. I have lost jobs and friends because I could not cope or pull myself out of my depression to get on with life. I have a family history of mental illness, so I am not entirely surprised about how my life turned out. I still find it sad, however, and wish it could have been different.

  • Living with depression is really hard, most days I struggle just to get out of bed. I don’t like to leave my house anymore and most of the things that I used to do on a regular basis that brought me joy just don’t anymore. I don’t have the urge to go out and see friends like I used to, some days I feel so down I’m not even happy to see my husband I’m just indifferent. Most days I feel a crushing weight on my shoulders that doesn’t seem to go away and I just seem to stare out my window and wonder when all this started and why, and I’m just left wishing it would all go away.

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