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Depression: Causes & Symptoms

Depression: Causes & Symptoms

Mental health issues are often ignored and even suppressed. In fact, most people tend to keep them under wraps, refraining from seeking help or even talking about it with their near and dear ones for fear of social stigma. Unfortunately, illness or issues of the mind may not seem as obvious or dramatic to you as physical problems, but mental health disorders definitely leave a much deeper mark on your overall well-being than you think.

One of the most prevalent and often deep-seated mental disorders is depression. Often misunderstood as merely an after-effect of some unfortunate incident in a person's life, depression can, in fact, be a congenital long-term issue which if ignored or suppressed can even claim your life.

What is Depression? How common is it?

Depression is a common mental health disorder classified under mood disorders, affecting over 300 million people of all ages across the world. The tell-tale signs of depression are overwhelming feelings of sadness and anger, accompanied by anxiety, loneliness, despair, and sometimes even suicidal tendencies. Depression adversely affects your normal life activities, your mood, significantly interferes with your thought process and disrupts your life in general.    

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of affected people is ever increasing, with particular emphasis on India that ranks highest in the world at 6.5% of its population. According to the recent WHO report on depression, India is followed by China, US, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, and Pakistan. Significant

Symptoms:

If you have to determine whether or not your loved one is suffering from depression, try to note if he or she has become unusually sad or aloof or doesn't care for things or activities he or she usually did or liked. Before everything goes south, look for the signs.

Some signs of depression:

  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Too little or too much sleep
  • Loss of appetite or over-eating
  • Inability to focus on normal life activities
  • Difficulty in taking decisions
  • Fatigue/lethargy
  • Mood swings
  • Unexplained headaches or body aches
  • Lower sexual drive
  • Suicidal tendencies (severe cases)

What are its causes?

There may be several causes of depression. But to accurately pin-point them, you may need to consult a psychologist/psychiatrist. Identifying the problem can help family members and friends come to the aid of the depressed person. The human mind is a complex thing. Diagnosing a mental problem can be tricky. The exact physical or mental trigger is still not entirely clear. However, scientists believe a sudden change or imbalance in the brain's neurotransmitters (signalling chemicals) is the culprit. Though they can't seem to agree on what this imbalance actually is.  

A variety of distressing life situations can trigger depression

  • The sudden death of someone close
  • Job loss
  • Financial difficulties
  • Conflict in marriage or family life or
  • A more deep-seated childhood trauma.

It is believed that environment alone doesn’t play a role. Often more than not, people are more genetically predisposed to suffer from such a condition. Experts say a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors lead to depression. We can categorize them as,

1) Family history: If your parents or grandparents suffered from depression, then the child is at a higher risk.

2) Medication: If your parents or grandparents suffered from depression, then the child is at a higher risk.

3) Childhood trauma: Two people undergoing a traumatic situation in adulthood may react differently depending on events in their childhood. Events during the early stages of a person's life impact the body and mind to such an extent that their outlook and attitude towards the world changes.

4) Structure of the brain: Scientists have found a link between depression and less active frontal lobe. However, whether this happens before or after the onset of depression is unclear.

5) Certain medical conditions: If you are already suffering from some chronic mental or physical illness, insomnia, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it is most likely you will also suffer from depression.

6) Drug & alcohol abuse: Substance abuse is also a major contributor.

If any of these points remind you of someone, reach out for a free doctor's consultation.


Treatment options

It can be very difficult to live with depression or to see someone living with it wither away. But, you should never self-medicate for mental health issues. It can have far more disastrous implications for you and your life than one can ever imagine. When you consult a doctor, these are the possible courses of action he/she may take:

1)  Medication: Antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and anti-psychotic medications are often prescribed by the doctor. Please note that while they may have great benefits, they are also accompanied by potential risks.

2) Psycho-therapy: Open up, talk to your therapist. Your doctor will teach you how to cope and manage your negative feelings and urges. Also, be open to family and group therapies.

3) Light therapy: This is often used in cases of seasonal disorders. This helps improve your mood and reduce symptoms.

4) Exercise: Physical exercise and meditation go a long way in treating depression.

5) Unani therapy: Ayurvedic treatment and acupuncture can also help at times.

However, none of these options can be taken up without supervision. Ask for your doctor's help and talk to a doctor online.

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