Everyone can experience a slump. Usually this bad feeling disappears within a few days. A real depression is different. Symptoms are present over longer periods of time and can have a major impact on daily life. There are different types of depressions and various ways to treat them.
What is a depression?
Depression is more than being a little bit down. This condition is associated with various symptoms that persist generally longer than a few weeks. Doctors speak of depression when someone is suffering from depressive symptoms for at least two weeks. In addition, there should be a number of clinical symptoms.
Symptoms of depression
The main features of depression include the following complaints:
- Persistent sadness;
- No interest in surroundings, have absolutely no interest in anything anymore.
In a depression, at least one of these symptoms or a combination of these complaints must be present.
Furthermore, a person suffering from depression can also suffer from additional features such as:
- Excessive worry / worry / anxious;
- Lack of emotion, (almost) no feelings;
- Sleep problems (sleeping much or little);
- Lack of concentration;
- Loss of appetite or overeating;
- Feelings of guilt;
- Feeling of emptiness or futility;
- Laziness or being restless;
- Feeling hunted and nervous;
- Frequent thoughts about death or suicide.
Types of depression
Not everyone who is depressed, suffers from the same kind of depression. There are several forms of depression with their own characteristics and treatment methods. Doctors make a distinction between mild, moderate or severe depression in their diagnosis. In addition there are the following types of depression:
Depression in the elderly
Older people are at a stage in which many significant things can happen, such as the loss of a spouse or close friend, a disease or a forced relocation to a nursing home, for example. In addition, they are bound more to their homes due to physical symptoms, making their world smaller. All these factors can lead to depression.
Depression in young people
Depression in young people can be recognized by symptoms such as withdrawal behavior, low self-esteem, anxiety, irritability and physical symptoms such as headaches and/or stomach pain. Sleeping or eating excessively may occur, but also crying and listlessness. Because these characteristics also appear in puberty, usually a depression is not recognized in first instance. The difference is that the symptoms persist much longer and are far more accentuated in a depression.
After the birth of a child a new mother may feel pretty unstable for a few days. But 10% to 15% of women having recently given birth develop a postpartum depression. This is identified by persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability and feelings of indifference and even hatred towards the baby. Also, excessive anxiety and worry can occur, as well as fatigue, sleep disturbances and lethargy.
In a manic-depressive disorder (also called bipolar disorder), periods of extreme depression and lethargy alternate with periods of excessive cheerfulness, boundless energy and constant turmoil, in which reality is often forgotten.
Winter Blues, autumn slump: a seasonal depression has many names. The main feature of seasonal depression is that the symptoms are always associated with the season. The patient is depressed in the fall, but unwinds and recovers in the spring.
In dysthymia, there is a prolonged gloomy mood which is not always strong. Features such as lethargy and depression are often less severe than in another type of depression. The depressive symptoms come and go, but are never absent for more than two months.
Causes of a depression
Depression can have many causes, including:
- Genetic predisposition – depressions are more common in some families;
- Physical factors such as illness, stress or fatigue;
- External factors, such as lack of sunlight, the death of a loved one, a divorce or relocation.
In addition, the number of neurotransmitters in the blood play a role in the emergence of a depression. Neurotransmitters are substances that provide for the transmission of stimuli in the nervous system. Research has shown that a deficit of neurotransmitters can lead to the occurence of a depression.
Depression can be treated. There are several methods to deal with depression, including therapy, medication or light therapy. A physician determines, on the basis of the symptoms and the kind of depression which treatment is most appropriate.
Psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy can help against depression. During conversations with the therapist you will get advice on how to influence your thoughts and feelings. A psychologist can also help with relationship problems or problems dealing with other people.
Medications against depression
Antidepressants are medicines that help against depression. Often these drugs have an effect on the number of neurotransmitters. It may take several weeks before these medications work well. Other medications sometimes prescribed for depression include soothing agents or sleep medication.
Light therapy for depression
Daylight has a major impact on our mood. In Northern Europe, however, we are dealing with relatively little sunshine, which can cause depression. A light bulb can supplement the lack of natural light, which improves your mood. Light therapy is also increasingly used in the treatment of depression. The major benefit of light therapy is that it is suitable for almost everyone and that there are no side effects.
DIY for depression
A depression is not suitable for self-medication. Yet there are a few things you can do to reduce or prevent a gloomy mood:
- Move. Physical activity helps to sleep better and be fit. Furthermore, more neurotransmitters move freely. Exercise preferably in open air.
- Omega 3 fatty acids. A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may help ease depression or prevent it. Sources of unsaturated fatty acids are, for example, nuts, olive oil, oily fish and avocados.
- Regularity. Regularity helps to clear the everyday life and gives a nice grip. Try to get up, eat, go to bed and do sports at set times.
- Mindfulness. Mindfulness can help to reduce worrying and a gloomy mood. Look on the Internet for a course in your area.
If the symptoms persist or if you suffer from a severe depression, please talk to your doctor.
Sources: NIMH, NAMI.org
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Last updated on May 26, 2017.