What is depression?
Most people sometimes feel unhappy, sad, miserable or just down. Depression is different from that, in the sense that a person feels down for a more extended period of time, and the feeling involves the person’s total being. It means we are emotionally unhealthy. Depression is a normal response to abnormal life experiences. The symptoms are a messenger of a deeper problem.
“We have been systematically misinformed about what depression and anxiety are. What if depression is, in fact, a form of grief—for our own lives not being as they should? What if it is a form of grief for the connections we have lost, yet still need?”
Depression doesn’t mean a person is ”crazy.”
”The more I investigated depression and anxiety, the more I found that, far from being caused by a spontaneously malfunctioning brain, depression and anxiety are mainly being driven by events in our lives. If you find your work meaningless and you feel you have no control over it, you are far more likely to become depressed. If you are lonely and feel that you can’t rely on the people around you to support you, you are far more likely to become depressed. If you think life is all about buying things and climbing up the ladder, you are far more likely to become depressed. If you think your future will be insecure, you are far more likely to become depressed.
I started to find a whole blast of scientific evidence that depression and anxiety are not caused in our skulls, but many of us are being made to live by the way. Fundamental biological factors, like your genes, can make you significantly more sensitive to these causes, but they are not the primary drivers.”
— Johann Hari, The Real Causes Of Depression Have Been Discovered, And They’re Not What You Think
What is ”feeling depressed” trying to tell you?
Much the same as a patient with stomach flu who suffers from nausea, stomach ache and vomiting, Johann Hari says: “You need your nausea. It would be best if you had your pain. It is a message that something in your life is wrong, and we must listen to the message. All these depressed and anxious people, all over the world—they are giving us a message. They are telling us something has gone wrong with the way we live. We need to stop trying to muffle or silence or pathologize that pain. Instead, we need to listen to it and honour it. It is only when we listen to our pain that we can follow it back to its source—and only there when we can see its true causes, can we begin to overcome it.”
Most people who get help for depression, feel better and live happily, fulfilled lives.
Which of the following signs or symptoms do you experience?
Types of depression
Why do people get depressed?
Causes and risk factors for depression
- Lack of social support
- Recent stressful life experiences
- Family history of depression
- Marital or relationship problems
- Financial strain
- Early childhood trauma or abuse
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Unemployment or underemployment
- Health problems or chronic pain
Is there a difference in depression between men/women/children?
Depression often looks different in men and women, and young people and older adults. An awareness of these differences helps ensure that the problem is recognized and treated.
Depression in men
Admitting to having depression is often seen as a weakness, especially in men. They are less likely than women to acknowledge feelings of self-loathing and hopelessness.
Men tend to complain about fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and loss of interest in work and hobbies. Other signs and symptoms of depression in men include anger, aggression, violence, reckless behaviour, and substance abuse. Even though depression rates are twice as high as those in men, men are at higher suicide risk, especially older men.
Depression in women
Rates of depression in women are twice as high as they are in men. This is due in part to hormonal factors, particularly when it comes to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), postpartum depression, and perimenopausal depression.
As for signs and symptoms, women are more likely than men to experience pronounced feelings of guilt, sleep excessively, overeat, and gain weight. Women are also more likely to suffer from the seasonal affective disorder.
Depression in Teens
Depression in teens is often difficult to spot. Not all teens display sadness as a symptom. Irritability—rather than depression—is frequently the predominant symptom in depressed adolescents and teens.
A depressed teenager may be hostile, grumpy, or quickly lose his or her temper. Unexplained aches and pains are also common symptoms of depression in young people.
Left untreated, teen depression can lead to problems at home and school, drug abuse, self-loathing—even irreversible tragedy such as homicidal violence or suicide. But with help, teenage depression is highly treatable. Females aged 15-24 years ¹ have the highest suicide rate.
Depression in older adults
Contrary to believe – depression is not a normal part of ageing. The complex changes that many older adults face—such as bereavement, loss of independence, and health problems—can lead to depression, especially in those without a robust support system. Older adults tend to complain more about the physical rather than the emotional signs and symptoms of depression, so the problem often goes unrecognized. Depression in older adults is associated with poor health, a high mortality rate, and an increased risk of suicide, so diagnosis and treatment are essential. Males aged 65+years ¹ have the highest suicide rate
Many new mothers suffer from some fleeting form of the “baby blues.” Postpartum depression, in contrast, is a longer-lasting and more serious depression triggered, in part, by hormonal changes associated with having a baby. Postpartum depression usually develops soon after delivery, but any depression within six months of childbirth may be postpartum depression.
Depression is a major risk factor for suicide.
”My best friend has been acting so strange lately. Now she’s really scaring me because yesterday she said the world would be better off without her.”
The deep despair and hopelessness that accompanies depression can make suicide feel like the only way to escape the pain. If you have a loved one with depression, take any suicidal talk or behaviour seriously and learn to recognize the warning signs.
Learn about the signs and symptoms of potential suicide. Click on Suicide for information
Warning: What happens when you stop taking anti-depressants abruptly?
Just found out you’re pregnant? That’s no excuse to stop taking your antidepressants. According to the Mayo Clinic, women who stop taking antidepressants while pregnant are more likely to suffer a relapse during pregnancy than women who continue taking their prescribed medication. Let your doctor know about your change in circumstances. They may decide to take you off your medicine or lower the dosage. You can also take a different antidepressant, one that’s safer for pregnant women.
The best way to stop taking your antidepressant is to slowly taper yourself from the medication under a doctor’s supervision. This involves slowly lowering the daily dose of medication until you are completely off the drug.
¹ Who commits suicide most? Suicide by gender and age. Medcrave. Forensic Research & Criminology International Journal. Volume 6, Issue 6 – 2018. Mustafa Demir. The State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA