The Science of Depression – Why people are depressed or sad
Depression has a miserable array of misguided stigmas and criticism surrounding its diagnosis. Some believe depression is a prolonged bad mood or just someone’s negative outlook on life, but it’s so much more than that and science has proven it. The ancient Greeks believed depression was a result of fluid imbalances of blood, phlegm, yellow and black bile. Meanwhile, early Christianity just threw the blame of the devil for man’s suffering, which resulted from their internal battle to fight the temptations of sin.
People with depression may experience a variety of symptoms, but most commonly, “a deep feeling of sadness or a marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities,” according to the American Psychiatric Association. Other symptoms of depression may include:
- Irritability, agitation or restlessness
- Lower sex drive
- Inability to focus
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Change is appetite, eating too much or too little
- Chronic fatigue and lethargy
- Unexplainable crying spells
- Unexplainable physical symptoms such as headaches or body aches
- Feeling hopeless and worthless
- Withdrawal from social situations and normal activities
- Thoughts of death or suicide
The causes of depression are not fully understood, but scientists believe that an imbalance in the brain’s signaling chemicals may be responsible for the condition in many of the patients. However, there are several theories about what this imbalance actually is and which signaling chemicals are involved. Moreover, a variety of distressing life situations are also associated, including early childhood trauma, a job loss, the death of a loved one, financial troubles, or a divorce.Certain medical conditions may also trigger depression, including an underactive thyroid gland, cancer, prolonged pain and other significant illnesses. Hormonally induced depression can arise after childbirth or at menopause as well.
To diagnose a person with depression disorder, doctors may ask patients about their family health history, mood and behavior patterns (such as eating and sleeping), and thoughts of suicide. They may also ask patients to report their depression symptoms on a printed questionnaire.In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is a mental health guidebook for doctors published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose a person with major depressive disorder, the person must show five or more of the symptoms (listed above) for at least two weeks.
Surveys have shown that up to half of Americans with depression don’t get medical help for their condition. Left untreated, major depression can set off a chain of social, emotional and health consequences that add to patients’ overall stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, these include alcohol or drug abuse, anxiety, social isolation and relationship conflicts, work or school difficulties, or suicide.Depression treatment may involve psychotherapy therapy, medications, or a combination of the two.
Medication:- Prescription drugs, called antidepressants, help alter mood by affecting naturally occurring brain chemicals. There are several categories of antidepressant, but doctors often start with a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and may try other medication if the patient’s condition didn’t improve. SSRIs target the brain’s serotonin, a signaling chemical (neurotransmitter) that studies have found to be involved in depression.
Psychotherapy:- Also known as talk therapy or counseling, this treatment has been shown to help some patients with depression. A number of studies have suggested that combining psychotherapy and medication together works best for treating people with severe depression.
Less common treatments:- For patients with severe depression who have not responded to any medication or psychotherapy, doctors may consider transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), according to the Mayo Clinic. TMS involves receiving brief magnetic pulses on the scalp to stimulate neurons that are thought to be involved in mood regulation and depression.