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Depression: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

  • Synopsis: Introduction to Depression including common causes of feeling depressed, medications available and treatment options.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Depression

Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being. People with depressed mood can feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, ashamed or restless. They may lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions, and may contemplate, attempt or commit suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, aches, pains, digestive problems or reduced energy may also be present.

Main Document

The DSM-IV is a manual that is used to diagnose mental health disorders; it describes depression as occurring when a person has at least five out of nine of the following symptoms at the same time. Symptoms the persons may experience include:

In persons who may have either clinical or major depression, one of the signs is either loss of interest in things that used to interest the person greatly, or depressed mood. In order for a diagnosis of depression to be made, these signs need to be present throughout most of the person's day on either a daily, or nearly daily basis for at least two weeks. The symptoms the persons is experiencing related to depression also need to be causing them clinically significant distress or impairment. The symptoms cannot be caused by something like a substance; medications or illegal drugs for example. The symptoms the person is experiencing also cannot be the result of something such as hypothyroidism or another medical condition. If the symptoms the person is experiencing happen within two months of the time they have lost someone they love, they will also not be diagnosed with depression.

Feelings Associated with Depression

The National Institute of Mental Health states that not everyone with a depressive illness will experience the same symptoms. The frequency, severity, and length of the feelings an individual will experience varies from person to person, as well as the particular illness they have. Common symptoms that people experience in relation to depression include:

The symptoms of depression may also occur in patterns. A person might also be diagnosed with either mania or hypomania, or a condition referred to as, 'Manic-Depressive Illness.' The symptoms that a person experiences may also be seasonal; something that is referred to as, 'Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).'

There are different forms of Manic-Depressive Illness. Persons with Bipolar II disorder are currently believed to have experienced a minimum of one major depression and one hypomanic episode. Persons with Bipolar I disorder are currently believed to have experienced at least one manic episode, yet may or may not have experienced a major depression. Persons with Unipolar disorder are currently believed to experience major depression only, and do not experience either mania or hypomania.

Treating Depression

Home Remedies - Some people experience depression that they prefer natural therapy treatments for. There is currently no evidence that any form of alternative therapy treatments or home remedies are effective in the treatment of moderate to severe depression. Persons with mild depression may find some benefit through use of home remedies and alternative therapies due to increased relaxation, which can provide relief from depressive symptoms. They may also assist people in coping with causes of depression, or even physical pain. It is always wise to consult a health care professional before beginning alternative or natural therapy.

Alternative Therapy - Health treatments that are not classified as being, 'standard,' according to Western medicine are referred to as, 'alternative.' Alternative therapies pursue a number of different approaches, which may include things such as exercise, diet, mental conditioning, and lifestyle changes. The following are some examples of alternative therapies:

Herbal Remedies - There are two herbal therapies that a number of people believe are useful in association with depression; St. John's Wort and Ginko Biloba. St. John's Wort is an herb that has been used for medical purposes in parts of the world for thousands of years. Still; it has not been scientifically proven to be effective in treatment of moderate depression. Ginko Biloba is an herb that some people believe is useful for improving both memory and intellectual functioning; it also has yet to be proven. Always consult a doctor before starting to take an herbal supplement. Herbal supplements should be treated exactly like medications.

Medications and Depression

There are a number of types of antidepressant medications that a physician may prescribe to treat depression. Antidepressant medications can also be used to treat diseases that have depression as a component of them, such as Bipolar disorder. Antidepressants improve they symptoms of depression, and belong to the following types:

Once a diagnosis of depression has been reached, a doctor discusses potential treatment options with the person who has been diagnosed. The kind of treatment options that are pursued depend on the form of depression the person is experiencing. Some people who are experiencing clinical depression are prescribed antidepressant medications, others are prescribed both antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. Persons who are experiencing depression that is not responding to these forms of treatments may undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also referred to as, 'electroshock therapy.' Despite the form of treatment a doctor prescribes to treat the form of depression a person has, there are no immediate solutions. People often find that they have to try different antidepressant medications before finding the one that works for them, making patience with the process of treatment a crucial part.

Depression Awareness Information

Green awareness ribbonThe awareness ribbon color for Mental Health Awareness, including Depression Awareness, is green. The month of October is Depression Awareness Month, and Oct. 11 is National Depression Screening Day. National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week for 2015 is May 3 to the 9th. Mental Health Awareness Week in 2015 is from 11 to 17th of May, the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2015 is mindfulness. In the U.K. Depression Awareness week for 2015 is taking place 20th to 26th April.

Quick Facts: Signs of Depression

Signs and symptoms include:

Many people with depression benefit by making lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise, cutting down on alcohol and eating more healthily. Self-help measures such as reading a self-help book or joining a support group are also worthwhile.

Statistics: Depression Statistics

According to the World Health Organization (WHO; 2010), major depression also carries the heaviest burden of disability among mental and behavioral disorders. Specifically, major depression accounts for:




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