What is Depression?

Depression is more than just common feelings of sadness and can interfere with a person’s daily life and their ability to function normally. Depression involves feeling sad, worthless, and lonely over an extended period of time. Depression can cause pain for those dealing with it and their families.

It is estimated that about 7% or 16 million American adults experienced at least one major depressive episode last year. Women are 70% more likely to experience depression than their male counterparts and young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are 60% more likely to suffer from depression than individuals 50 years and older. Depression is caused by a number of factors such as trauma, loss of a loved one, conflict, etc.

The disorder is caused by physical changes in the brain chemistry and can have genetic causes and derive from hormonal changes, stress, grief or be secondary to prescription medication or drugs. Certain medication such as Accutane, interferon-alpha, and corticosteroids can in fact increase a person’s risk for developing depression.


What are the Symptoms of Depression?

People affected by this disorder may experience decreased energy and fatigue, problems concentrating, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, irritability, moodiness, restlessness, insomnia or excessive sleeping, difficulty remembering things and making decisions, anger outbursts, trouble remembering, thoughts of suicide, loss of appetite or overeating, feeling hopeless, and loss of interest in pleasurable activities including family, friends, food, favorite activities and sex.

The patient might lose weight and in severe cases experience hallucinations and delusions.

Depression Causes

The causes of depression are not fully clear and it is not possible to pinpoint a single source. However, experts believe depression is caused by a complex combination of factors such as genetic, biological, environmental and psychosocial.

Some people are at a greater risk of developing depression than others. Some of the depression’s risk factors include traumatic life events such as bereavement, work related issues, divorce or relationship breakdown and financial problems. Depressions associated with personality can be triggered by past trauma or inability to cope successfully with life’s challenges. Childhood trauma is also another important depression risk factor.

Some prescription drugs such as corticosteroids, interferon, and some beta-blockers have also been associated with increased risk of depression. Finally, there is a strong connection between depression and drug abuse. Abuse of recreational drugs like alcohol and amphetamines can accompany or lead to depression.

How is Depression Treated?

Treatment depends upon the type of depression and its severity.

Treatment includes

A combination of exercise, psychotherapy, and antidepressant medication.

If standard forms of treatment do not seem to be providing the desired results there is also electroconvulsive therapy which is also referred to as ECT or electroshock therapy.  It takes time and trial and error to find the right combination of medications and therapies that work best for each individual suffering with depression.

Depression Prevention

While depression is generally not easy to prevent, making changes to your lifestyle can play a significant role in its management. Staying active, for instance, can greatly help you keep depression at bay. Exercises are not only great for your physical health, they can also improve your overall mood and help you manage anxiety and depression.

Next, it is important that you keep your mind occupied by maintaining a healthy social life. Staying connected with your loved ones is important, especially when you are battling life’s challenges. Those who suffer from depression tend to withdraw from family and friends, causing isolation and loneliness. Reaching out to family and friends and meeting new people can prevent depression from taking over your life.

Joining a support group is another important step in preventing, or managing, depression. Sometimes, family support may not be enough. Signing up for preventive therapy, whether in the form of a support group, one-on-one, or online counseling can help you take the right steps in depression prevention.

Finally, watch your alcohol consumption. If you are prone to depression, be sure to pay special attention to your alcohol intake or, better still, give up alcohol altogether. Besides being a mood-altering depressant, excessive alcohol consumption also puts you at a greater risk of abuse and getting deeper into depression.

Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
April 10, 2018