Life is unpredictable, and many uncontrollable things can change our mood and make us feel miserable. However, while it is common to encounter feelings of sadness and sorrow on occasion, intense, prolonged sadness in combination with physical disorders and behavior changes may indicate a serious mental health condition – depression. Depression often comes with other mental and physical diseases, that’s why it should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Regardless of how hopeless and miserable you feel, you can definitely get better with a wisely appointed treatment plan. Below in this post, we would like to give you a better understanding of what is depression, as well as share the most essential depression facts. Understanding the mechanisms of depression is the first step in resolving this problem.
What Is Depression?
Most of the medical dictionaries would define depression as a mental disorder characterized by a prolonged feeling of sadness accompanied by various physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms (sleep disturbance, loss of appetite, incapacity to concentrate, lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy, avoiding friends and social situations). Unattended depression can lead to self-harming and suicidal thoughts. Long-term despair and feeling of worthlessness make many people think of suicide as the only way to stop their suffering. Suicidal behavior is a cry for help, thus we must be very attentive to all our loved ones who can’t cope with their sadness themselves.
A Bit of Depression Statistics
According to the research conducted by the WHO (World Health Organization) and World Mental Health Survey Initiative approximately seven in a hundred people experience depression (the figures refer to adult population) regardless of their country of origin, sex, marital and financial status. In the United States, this percentage transforms into 14.8 million people. More cross-cultural depression facts are given below:
- Women are more susceptible to depression (for every one man that has depression, two women will).
- Late-life depression affects roughly six million people, yet only 10% of them are diagnosed and receive treatment.
- Suicide is the third main cause of suicide in children and adolescents (10-24 years old).
- Each second person who takes care of an elderly relative experience intense symptoms of depression.
- One-fourth of all cancer patients suffer from depression.
- Roughly 27% of people with addictions (alcohol and other substances) face depression.
It has been estimated that depression will be the second most frequent health issue in the world by the year 2020. In the US alone employers spend from 12 to 70 billion dollars annually to pay for the treatment of workers suffering from depression and related mental health diseases.
Understanding Causes of Depression
Even though depression is one of the most common mental diseases in the world, scientists are still not sure what causes depression. Psychologists would say that this condition is a result of a combination of various factors, such as an individual’s genes, medical history, personal experience, and biochemical makeup of his/her brain. Due to modern medical imaging technologies, it has been proven that the brain of a depressed person differs from that of a mentally healthy individual. The MRI images show that parts of the brain responsible for cognitive processes, sleep, mood, and appetite don’t function normally in those who suffer from depression. The chemical analysis has also indicated the disbalance of neurotransmitters (chemicals responsible for linking or ‘communication’ of brain cells).
So, let’s try to group and describe the main factors which can contribute to the development of this debilitating and exhausting mental illness:
- Chemistry: chemical imbalance in the brain. It has been proven scientifically, that there are certain neurotransmitters (serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine) that can define our mood. Their disbalance can make us feel miserable, sad, and worthless.
- Genetics: it was estimated that people with a history of depression in their families have higher odds to develop depression. However, the obvious link has not been discovered yet.
- Certain medications. Some medicines can lead to depression, especially when taken regularly. These are some beta-blockers and reserpine (the drugs used to treat blood pressure fluctuations).
- Environmental causes:
- Emotional, sexual, or physical abuse.
- Conflicts. Long-term, unmanaged conflicts with loved ones and family members can provoke depression and aggravate other mental issues.
- Important events. Both good and bad events (marriage and divorce, getting a new job or firing, buying a house, or moving) can cause depression.
- Loss or death. Death or loss of a loved person can increase the risk of depression.
- Addictions. People with substance abuse are more likely to develop depression than those who have no addictions.
- Other problems. In fact, anything that causes stress and makes us feel miserable and sad can trigger prolonged sadness and depression.
Finding out the causes of depression is a time-consuming task that requires multiple tests and psychological examination. Depression often coexists with other mental and non-mental illnesses. Understanding the main causes of depression help psychologists appoint the most effective therapies for each particular case.