Although we all at some time or another describe ourselves as “depressed,” the actual medical condition is more serious in nature than merely feeling a little down or sad.
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Depression affects millions in the world today and is a serious risk to your health. This video from the World Health Organization sheds some light on the disease, and we, too, should have a look at what depression actually is.
Depression has been around for a very long time, although under a different name, namely melancholia (not to be confused with melancholy). The feeling of severe sadness coupled with a lack of energy and apathy has struck people as early as Ancient Greece. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, describes it in one of his treatises. Abraham Lincoln suffered from it as well. The term depression didn’t start appearing until the 19th century and was then linked to a great many other symptoms including delusions and obsessions.
There is a lot of disagreement on how many people suffer from depression, partly due to the fact that there are differing ideas on what constitutes depression alongside the fact that many people are misdiagnosed because depression’s physical manifestations (fatigue, sleeplessness) are so easily attributed to other ailments. According to which study you read, depression can affect anywhere from 2 percent to 30 percent of the population and is either a preponderantly female affliction or strikes both genders equally. The data is a confusing mess, to say the least.
There are several kinds of depression. The first is major depressive disorder, which can be debilitating to normal life as it hinders sleep and food and general good humor; it doesn’t always last long, but it can recur. Major depression also has a little brother in dysthymia, a milder form of depression that has less severe symptoms but can last for years. When you suffer from either form of depression, a normal life is possible if proper care of the condition is taken.
This can’t be said, however, for either bipolar disorder or psychotic depression, two manic forms of depression that can only be treated through medication and therapy. These are very serious mental illnesses which can cause sufferers to harm themselves and/or others; if you suspect either condition, visit medical professionals as soon as possible.
Finishing off the list are postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder. These two are seen as temporary blues by some, yet over half of the cases require medication before sufferers can feel some relief.
One of the reasons depression is hard to diagnose is because so many of its symptoms are either the same as many other diseases or are seen as not being that much of a problem. The flip side of that particular coin is that some people self-diagnose as depressed while they are just feeling a little sad. Many people, for example, feel sad after their pet dies; it doesn’t mean that Fluffy’s passing has brought on a major depression.
Another obstacle for medical professionals is that not all depressives will have all the following symptoms at the same time, they can manifest at different times and in different forms. The main ones are general apathy and listlessness, sadness or general anxiety, irritability, insomnia, fatigue and loss of appetite.
There are several ways to treat depression, the most common being medication and therapy. The former is slowly going out of vogue in favor of the latter, with more and more therapists only treating the most acute symptoms with drugs.
Through therapy, patients can learn a variety of techniques to deal with their depression and maybe even find out the root cause for it. One thing that often helps is unlearning old habits and adopting new ones. There is very much a brighter future for people suffering from depression; all they need to do is take a few steps toward it.
If you think you may suffer from depression, do not hesitate to contact a medical professional. Life does not feel worth living right now maybe, but you can turn it around.