Depression is a common mental health disorder that can have a serious and lasting impact on a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is a complex condition that affects people in different ways, and it can range from mild to severe. Some people may experience symptoms for just a few weeks or months, while others may struggle with depression for years.
Depression is a disease that is characterized in particular by great sadness, a feeling of despair (depressed mood), a loss of motivation and decision-making faculties, a decrease in the feeling of pleasure, eating and sleeping disorders, morbid thoughts, and the feeling of having no value as an individual. In the medical community, the term major depression is often used to designate this illness
Symptoms of depression
Symptoms of depression can include persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of motivation or interest in activities that were once enjoyable. Other common symptoms include changes in appetite and sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, and a lack of energy or interest in sex.
Some people may also experience physical symptoms, such as stomach pain, headaches, or chronic pain, as well as feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness. Depression usually occurs as depressive periods that can last for weeks, months or even years. Depending on the intensity of the symptoms, the depression will be classified as mild, moderate or major (severe). In the most severe cases, depression can lead to suicide.
The different forms of depression
Depressive disorders are classified into several entities: major depressive disorders, dysthymic disorders and depressive disorders not otherwise specified.
major depressive disorder
It is characterized by one or more major depressive episodes (a depressed mood or loss of interest for at least two weeks associated with at least four other symptoms of depression).
Dysthymic disorder (dys = dysfunctional and thymia = mood)
It is characterized by depressed mood present most of the time for at least two years, associated with depressive symptoms that do not meet the criteria for a Major Depressive Episode. It is a depressive tendency, without there being a major depression.
Nonspecific depressive disorder is a depressive-like disorder that does not meet the criteria for major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder. This may be, for example, an adjustment disorder with depressed mood or an adjustment disorder with both anxious and depressed mood.
Other terms are used alongside this classification from the DSM4 (classification manual of mental disorders).
Along with the usual symptoms of depression are added excessive apprehension and anxiety.
Bipolar disorder previously referred to as manic depression
This psychiatric disorder is characterized by periods of major depression, with manic or hypomanic episodes (exaggerated euphoria, overexcitement, inverted form of depression).
Depressive state that manifests itself cyclically, usually during the few months of the year when the sunshine is at its lowest.
In 60% to 80% of women, a state of sadness, nervousness and anxiety manifests itself in the days after childbirth. We are talking about baby blues which lasts between one day and 15 days. Usually this negative mood resolves on its own. However, in 1 in 8 women, real depression sets in immediately or appears within a year of birth.
Depression following bereavement. In the weeks following the loss of a loved one, signs of depression are common, and this is part of the grieving process. However, if these signs of depression persist for more than two months, or if they are very marked, a specialist should be consulted.
Prevalence of depression
Depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders. According to a survey conducted by public health authorities in Quebec, approximately 8% of people aged 12 and over reported having experienced a period of depression in the past 12 months 1 . According to Health Canada, approximately 11% of Canadian men and 16% of Canadian women will suffer from major depression during their lifetime . And 7.5% of French people aged 15 to 85 have experienced a depressive episode in the last 12 months 90 .
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2020, depression will become the second leading cause of disability worldwide, after cardiovascular disorders 2 .
Depression can occur at any age, including childhood, but most often first appears in late adolescence or early adulthood .
The causes of depression
It is not known precisely what causes depression, but it is probably a complex illness involving several factors related to heredity, biology, life events as well as environment and habits. of life.
As a result of long-term studies carried out on families as well as on twins (separated or not at birth), it has been shown that depression has a certain genetic component, although it has not been identified specific genes involved in this disease. Thus, a family history of depression may be a risk factor.
Although the biology of the brain is complex, we observe in depressed people a deficit or an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin. These imbalances disrupt communication between neurons. Other problems, such as hormonal disruption (hypothyroidism, taking birth control pills, for example), can also contribute to depression.
Living environment and habits
Bad lifestyle habits (smoking, alcoholism, little physical activity, excessive television88 or video games, etc.) and living conditions (precarious economic conditions, stress, social isolation) are likely to have a profound effect on psychological state. For example, the accumulation of stress at work can lead to burnout and, ultimately, depression.
The loss of a loved one, a divorce, an illness, the loss of one’s job or any other trauma can trigger depression in people predisposed to the disease. Similarly, ill-treatment or trauma experienced in childhood makes people more susceptible to depression in adulthood, in particular because they permanently disrupt the functioning of certain stress-related genes.
There are several potential causes of depression. It is often triggered by a life event, such as the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or a job loss. Chronic stress, such as financial problems or an unhealthy work environment, can also contribute to the development of depression. In some cases, depression may be caused by underlying medical conditions or the use of certain medications.
Complications related to depression
There are several possible complications related to depression:
- recurrence of depression;
It is common since it affects 50% of people who have experienced depression. Treatment considerably reduces the risk of recurrence.
- the persistence of residual symptoms;
These are cases where the depression is not fully cured and where even after the depressive episode, signs of depression persist.
- the transition to chronic depression;
- suicide risk.
Depression is the leading cause of suicide: about 70% of people who die by suicide suffer from depression. Depressed men over the age of 70 are the people most at risk of committing suicide. Thoughts of suicide, sometimes called “dark thoughts”, are one of the signs of depression. Although most people with thoughts of suicide do not attempt it, it is a warning sign. Depressed people think of suicide to end a suffering that seems unbearable to them.
Disorders associated with depression
Depression has physical or psychological links to other health problems:
- anxiety ;
- addiction ;
Alcoholism, abuse of substances such as cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, dependence on certain drugs such as sleeping pills or tranquilizers.
- increased risk of certain diseases.
Including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Indeed, depression is associated with a higher risk of heart problems or strokes. Moreover, suffering from depression could slightly accelerate the onset of diabetes in people already at risk.
Researchers argue that people with depression are also less likely to exercise and eat well. Also, some medications can increase appetite and cause weight gain. All of these factors increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of Depression
According to the DSM4-R definition, the main feature of depression is:
- depressed mood;
- with loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities;
- for a period of at least two weeks.
In a depressed child or adolescent, one can sometimes observe irritability rather than sadness. For depression to be effective, for the diagnosis to be made, the person must also present at least four additional symptoms:
- a change in appetite or weight, sleep and psychomotor activity;
- reduced energy;
- thoughts of worthlessness or guilt;
- trouble thinking, concentrating, or making decisions.
Other symptoms may be present:
- an unusual aggressive attitude or great irritability;
- excessive emotional sensitivity (a trifle brings tears);
- restlessness, with the impossibility of remaining seated, wandering, wriggling of the hands, manipulation and friction of the skin, clothing or other objects) or on the contrary the impression of thinking and acting “in slow motion”;
- a decrease in libido;
- headaches, stomach or back pain;
- a feeling of emptiness;
- an impression of not feeling anything anymore.
These symptoms of depression are accompanied by significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Note: severe depression is often accompanied by other psychiatric problems, such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia) or drug or alcohol abuse . Indeed, many people with depression use these substances to relieve their symptoms, which can create other health problems (mental or physical).
In the elderly, depression is also common. It often goes unnoticed, because the symptoms (fatigue, loss of motivation, isolation) can be attributed to aging. A significant portion of this population would go undiagnosed and untreated 5 . Some symptoms of depression are more common in older people than in younger people, in particular:
- aggression and anger;
- various and unexplained pains (backaches, headaches, etc.);
- isolation, withdrawal;
- confusion and memory problems;
- feeling of being useless, frequent suicidal ideation.
Recognizing Depression in Children and Teens
Depression is quite rare (0.5%) in their case. However, one must be particularly attentive to any sudden change in behavior and to signs of withdrawal, absence, or on the contrary, irritability or agitation:
- he no longer wants to play, go out or see his friends;
- he is very irritable and cries often;
- he complains of headaches or stomachaches;
- he says he no longer wants to live or that he shouldn’t have been born;
- he experiences exclusion and failures at school;
- he is growing, but gaining very little weight.
Depression can be difficult to distinguish from moments of crisis or confrontation specific to this stage of life. It affects 3% to 4% of adolescents, especially girls.
The following signs should be watched for:
- abuse of alcohol, drugs, medication;
- a state of agitation;
- verbal abuse;
- an apparent indifference;
- a tendency to isolation;
- a disinvestment in studies;
- signs of self-harm;
- a verbalization of suicidal thoughts.
Treatment for depression
Treatment for depression often involves a combination of therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication. CBT is a type of therapy that helps people identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their depression. Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants, can also be effective in managing the symptoms of depression.
It is important to seek treatment for depression as soon as possible, as it can worsen over time if left untreated. Early treatment can help prevent the condition from becoming severe and can help people get back to living their lives. It is also important to remember that depression is a treatable condition, and there is hope for recovery.
There are also steps people can take to help manage their depression on their own. These can include:
- Exercising regularly: Exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce the symptoms of depression.
- Getting enough sleep: Poor sleep can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Eating a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein can help improve mood and overall health.
- Reducing stress: Stress management techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing, can help reduce symptoms of depression.
- Staying connected: Social support is an important factor in managing depression. Connecting with friends and loved ones can provide a sense of belonging and can help improve mood.
- Seeking support: Support groups and therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment for people struggling with depression.
It is also important to remember that depression is a serious condition that can have serious consequences if left untreated. In severe cases, depression can lead to thoughts of suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, it is important to seek help immediately. Resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) can provide support and assistance.
In conclusion, depression is a common but serious mental health disorder that can have a significant impact on a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. While it can be challenging to manage, it is a treatable condition, and there is hope for recovery. With the right treatment and support, people with depression can learn to manage their symptoms and live fulfilling lives.
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