Depression is a biological illness that effects behaviour, thoughts and feelings. Although depression can be caused by or worsened by life problems, medical research has shown that depression occurs as a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, just as many other diseases such as diabetes, involve chemical imbalances. Almost all of us have, at one point or another, experienced feelings of unhappiness “a blue mood” that could be associated with a disruptive life event. However, a pervasive feeling of sadness that lasts for more than two weeks, and affects our general functioning is a sign of depression.
Some common symptoms of depression include:
- Changes in sleep habits, like insomnia, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much.
- Changes in eating habits, such as loss of appetite or weight gain.
- Decreased energy, feeling of fatigue.
- Restlessness and irritability.
- Difficulty in concentration, remembering, difficulty in making decisions.
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt or worthlessness.
- Persistent sad, anxious, or empty feelings.
- Loss of interest in one’s pleasurable activities, such as involvement with loved ones or hobbies.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
- The most serious complication of depression can be suicide.
WHAT CAUSES DEPRESSION?
In the brain, there are naturally occurring substances called “neurotransmitters.” These are the chemical messengers, which carry electrical signals from one nerve cell in the brain to another, across spaces called “synapsis.” The neurotransmitters that play a significant role in maintaining our mood are primarily “serotonin and norepinephrine.” When these neurotransmitters are in low levels, the vegetative symptoms of depression, as listed above, become clinically evident.
Unfortunately, the diagnosis of depression is often delayed, as well meaning friends and family tell the depressed individual to “just snap out of the mood.” Medical treatment is necessary for the treatment of major depression, and will often relieve the symptoms within a few weeks.
The treatment of depression is twofold, namely, psychopharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. The former consists of medicines called “antidepressant medication.” Over the years, a host of antidepressant medications have become available. . Unlike common belief, antidepressant medicines are non-addictive and safe, if used as prescribed. The antidepressants help to restore the balance of the neurotransmitters in the brain and thereby, relieve the vegetative symptoms of depression.
Psychotherapy targets resolution of coexisting life problems, and also helps one to gain a better understanding of one’s self. This better understanding of one’s self can then enable one to develop better coping mechanisms.
In conclusion, let me once again remind the reader that depression is a biological illness that can be effectively treated. The feelings of despair, hopelessness, and helplessness can be alleviated through proper treatment and one can live a fulfilling life, despite the illness.