It is not uncommon to experience feelings of sadness or frustration at times, but true depression is an actual disorder. Depression is one of the most common types of mental disorders, affecting about 340 million people in the world. Interestingly, about half of all cases of depression go undiagnosed and untreated — yet depression is the most treatable form of mental illness. Depression occurs in all age groups, social classes and cultures. It is far more common in females, affecting 25 percent of women versus about 10 percent of men. Additionally, depression also affects one out of every 20 teenagers.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of depression include
- a sullen mood
- feelings of hopelessness, guilt and anxiety
- loss of interest in things that used to be pleasurable
- change in appetite
- change in sleeping patterns
- inability to concentrate
- a lack of energy or feeling rundown
What causes depression?
Depression can be triggered by a recent loss or other sad event, but it becomes out of proportion to the situation and persists longer than what is deemed appropriate.
The actual causes of depression are still unclear, but one of the most probable explanations is an imbalance of a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in the brain called serotonin. It seems that a deficiency in serotonin can cause depression. Serotonin is considered the brain's mood-elevating and tranquilizing drug, and low levels have been found to have a profound effect on mood and feelings of well-being.
In addition, there are also several factors that can precipitate depression:
- Familial tendency - Those with depression in their family can have a 25 percent chance of developing the illness themselves.
- A recent loss or sad event - such as the loss of a job, bereavement, or social isolation
- Side effects of certain drugs
- Infections -- such as AIDS, mononucleosis, and viral hepatitis
- Pre-menstrual syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Certain types of cancer
- Neurological disorders — such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease
- Nutritional deficiencies of vitamin B-12 or B-6
What can I do to help treat depression?
- Follow a well-balanced diet — and include a multivitamin/mineral supplement to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs of all the essential nutrients.
- Exercise - Numerous studies have shown that exercise is a very effective method for decreasing depression as it helps to improve your mood and boosts self-confidence.
- Seek professional help - Find a mental health counselor who can help you get to the root of your depression and facilitate recovery.
- Anti-depressant medications - Speak to your physician to determine if you are a candidate for anti-depressant medication.