What is Depression? 

Depression affects millions of people around the world. It is a state where the overall mood is low which affects the behavior, thoughts and feelings of a person along with their sense of being. There are a number of feelings that a person with depression may experience that includes the following;

  • Anxious
  • Sad
  • Empty
  • Helpless
  • Worthless
  • Guilty
  • Irritable
  • Ashamed
  • Hopeless
  • Restless and more

Depression is often associated with one or more of these feelings which last for a considerable period of time. A person who is depressed often loses interest in activities that they once prized, they may also either lose their appetite or overeat as the case may be. Some also have issues with concentration and may even feel the urge to commit suicide.

Additional symptoms of depression include pains, aches, fatigue, excessive amounts of sleep, digestive issues and a reduced amount of energy. Prolonged depressed moods may lead to major disorders which can be difficult to treat. However, depression may also be caused by a normal reaction to a terrible event that results in grief as well as reactions to certain medical treatments and medications.

Causes of Depression

There are a number of different factors that may cause depression. It is true that most people will experience one or more of these factors, but it does not lead to being depressed. This means that there may be other factors or imbalances involved in order to trigger depression.

  • Mental abuse
  • Grief
  • Neglect
  • Unequal parenting
  • Sexual abuse
  • Bullying

Most of these causes occur as children or teens that may have experienced abuse, neglect or underwent a traumatic event. As adults, other events such as the loss of someone close, trouble in relationships, separation, and even catastrophic injury may also bring on the symptoms of a depressive state. While such events have occurred to adults, teens are generally more vulnerable during that time in their lives to experiencing events which may cause depression.

There are also other causes of depression that come from a variety of sources starting with undergoing medical treatments, suffering from a long term or chronic illness or condition and even psychiatric sources such as mood disorders that cause depression to occur. From bipolar disorder to seasonal affective disorder, there are a number of different causes that may lead to depression.

What is also true is that in many cases depression may be difficult to diagnose. This is especially true for someone who has experienced a loss or undergone a catastrophic injury and their condition is misinterpreted as something else. Plus, others who suffer from depression may not demonstrate the most obvious signs, particularly in front of others which again can make it a difficult condition to recognize, particularly from the person who is experiencing it.

While most people will experience short bouts of depression from normal causes, it is those who suffer from long term effects that need to be treated.

Treating Depression

In the case of depression, the first step is finding out if treatment is really needed. A depressed mood is expected for those who have experienced a traumatic event and everyone recovers at their own rate. However, a prolonged depressive state that demonstrates several of the symptoms may benefit from treatment to help boost the person out of their depression.

It is important to understand that depression is not a singular condition, but one that may have several sub-states each of which requires its own type of treatment. Not only may this cause confusion in terms of what treatment is the best, but it also may mask those who really need certain types of treatment. In the US, it is estimated that up to 2/3rds of those who suffer from depression are not actively seeking out treatment for their condition.

Treatment comes in two basic forms, medications and behavioral therapy. In many cases, the depression is either caused or aided by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that can be rectified through different types of medicines. However, there are occasions when medical treatment is either not recommended or simply too strong for the patient who could better benefit from behavioral treatments. Plus, the use of medicines in a very small group of those who suffer from depression may have unexpected side effects.

The Role of Gender in Depression

Generally speaking, women suffer from depression more than men. However, when it comes to the individual the differences may widen or shrink depending on the causes or the type of depression that is being suffered.

Overall, women suffer more from depression that is based in somatic symptoms which include loss of appetite, sleep and an increase in fatigue and anxiety. Men however suffer from committing suicide when being depressed than women, yet more women who have depression actually suffer the conditions which leads to suicide. The difference may be that men simply choose more effective methods of killing themselves when these thoughts or feeling occur.

Basically, the gender differences seem to be more in degree in suffering from the different types of depression rather than real biological differences. Still, it is something that is being heavily studied so that the right type of treatment can be administered to each gender.

In the end, depression is a state of being that affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives. A traumatic event such as losing a loved one or suffering a catastrophic injury or illness may lead to a state of depression that is either short or long term. Short term bouts of depression do not require any medical treatment and the best course of action seems to be letting the grief or pain ride itself out.

Long term or repeated short term bouts of depression will require either behavioral treatment that help patients identify their current state and take actions or medications that can alter the chemical balance in the brain. In any case, the need for the proper diagnosis of long term depression is paramount in order to decide what type of treatment may be necessary.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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