Not just clinical sadness but much more
What is depression? It’s a question many of us have asked ourselves at least once, either because of TV or because of some famous case read in the newspapers. Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that makes you feel constant sadness or lack of interest in life. Most people feel sad or depressed at times. This is a normal reaction to losing something or to life’s challenges. But when the intense sadness, including feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless, lasts for many days to whole weeks and keeps you from living your life, it may be something more. You may have clinical depression, which is a real medical condition and should be treated as such.
What are the symptoms of depression?
According to the DSM-5, a manual that doctors use to diagnose mental disorders, you have depression when you have five or more of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks:
- Your mood is depressed most of the day, especially in the morning.
- You feel tired or have a lack of energy almost every day.
- You feel worthless or guilty almost every day.
- You feel hopeless or pessimistic.
- You have trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions.
- You can’t sleep, or sleep too much, almost every day.
- You have almost no interest or pleasure in many activities almost every day.
- You often think about death or suicide (not just fear of death).
- You feel restless or slowed down.
- You have lost or gained weight.
Symptoms can also occur in patterns. For example, depression can come with a change in seasons (a condition called seasonal affective disorder). It’s not uncommon for depressed people to have physical signs of the condition that afflicts them: joint pain, back pain, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, and appetite changes. The reason is that brain chemicals related to depression, particularly serotonin and norepinephrine, play a role in both mood and pain by sending the entire system into disarray.
Depression in children and adolescents
Childhood depression is different from the normal sense of sadness and everyday emotions that most children experience. If your child is sad, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is suffering from depression. It is when sadness remains day after day that depression can be a problem. Disruptive behaviors that interfere with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork or family life can also be signs of a problem.
Depression in adolescents is quite common. Many teens feel unhappy or moody. When the sadness lasts for more than 2 weeks and a teen has other symptoms of depression, there may be a problem. Look especially at interaction withdrawal from friends and family, a drop in school performance, or alcohol or drug use. Talk to your doctor or psychotherapist and find out if your child may be depressed. There is effective treatment that can help teens overcome depression as they move into adulthood.
Causes of depression
Doctors and psychotherapist have not pinpointed the exact causes of depression. They think it may be a combination of things, including:
- Brain structure. People with depression seem to have physical differences in the brain compared to people who do not have depression.
- Brain chemistry. Chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters play a role in your mood. When you have depression, it may be because these chemicals don’t work as they should.
- Hormones. Hormone levels change because of pregnancy, postpartum issues, thyroid problems, menopause or other reasons. This can trigger symptoms of depression.
- Genetics. Researchers have not yet found the genes that may be responsible for depression, but you are more likely to have depression if someone you are related to has it.
Furthermore, the different types of depression should be considered
There are certain types of depressive disorders that doctors can diagnose, not only based on the age of the patient but also based on both the situation and the severity of the symptoms. If you suspect that you are depressed or that someone in your family or friends is, seeking medical advice is always the best option.