As a person who suffers from depression, I’m still surprised at the lack of information and knowledge the public has. There is so much misinformation relayed between people. My hope is, that with this post, and those that follow, the correct information will be made public.
What is Depression?
Depression is a real illness that impacts the brain. Anyone suffering from depression will tell you, it’s not imaginary or “all in your head.” Depression is more than just feeling “down.” It is a serious illness caused by changes in brain chemistry. Research tells us that other factors contribute to the onset of depression, including genetics, changes in hormone levels, certain medical conditions, stress, grief or difficult life circumstances. Any of these factors alone or in combination can precipitate changes in brain chemistry that lead to depression’s many symptoms.
What are the symptoms of depression?
* Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
* Loss of interest in daily activities. You don’t care anymore about former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
* Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
* Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping.
* Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
* Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
* Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
* Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
* Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
* Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
What causes Depression?
“Professionals believe that the biggest reason people feel depressed is because they don’t feel loved or accepted as they are”.
Depression isn’t a simple condition with a known cause. Some people are more susceptible to depressive episodes while others are not. It’s important to discuss symptoms with your doctor. There are several possible causes of depression.
Depression may be an inherited condition. You may have a higher likelihood of experiencing a depressive disorder at some point in your life if you have a family member with depression. The exact gene involved in this is unknown.
Some people have noticeable changes in their brains with depression. Even though this potential cause isn’t understood, it does suggest that depression starts with the functioning of the brain. Similarly, some psychiatrists look at brain chemistry with cases of depression.
Neurotransmitters in the brain — specifically serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine — affect feelings of happiness and pleasure and may be out of balance in people with depression. Antidepressants work to balance these neurotransmitters, mainly serotonin. Why these neurotransmitters get out of balance and exactly what role they play in depressive states isn’t fully understood.
Changes in hormone production or functioning could also lead to the onset of depressive states. Any changes in hormone states — including menopause, childbirth, thyroid problems, or other disorders — could cause depression.
With postpartum depression, mothers develop symptoms of depression after the birth of their child. While it’s perfectly normal to be emotional because of the changing hormones, postpartum depression is a serious condition.
As the daylight hours get shorter in the winter, many people develop feelings of lethargy, tiredness, and a loss of interest in everyday tasks. Called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, this condition usually goes away once the days get longer. Your doctor may prescribe medication and/or a light box to help treat SAD.
Any time of trauma, big change, or struggle in life can trigger a case of depression. Losing a loved one, being fired, having financial troubles, or undergoing a serious change can have a big impact on people.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a form of depression that occurs after a serious situation in life. PTSD is often diagnosed in soldiers returning from war. It can also occur as a result of:
seeing something life-changing and scary
being abused or assaulted
a serious car or other accident
being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition
If you, or someone you know, suffers from depression, or any other mental health issues, and needs help, please contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. SADAG is Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group. On this website you will find comprehensive mental health information and resources to help you, a family member or loved one.
Should you wish to share your story, please feel free to contact me by clicking on the green email icon on the top right side of the blog.