Depression: what it is, signs, symptoms and how to deal with it

What is depression and how does it differ in men, women and children?

Depression is a mental disorder in which a person has a pathologically diminished mood, a persistent sense of guilt, a loss of opportunity to enjoy, a pessimistic assessment of oneself and one’s future. It is no coincidence that depression is sometimes referred to as the “21st century disease”: it is now considered one of the most common disorders. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 280 million people worldwide suffer from diagnosed depression, which is about 5% of the world’s adult population. For several years, experts have noted a tendency to increase the number of such diagnoses and, according to forecasts, their prevalence will only increase.

In modern psychiatry, there are a large number of different classifications of depression and first of all, it is necessary to determine more accurately the cause of the condition and to choose a treatment algorithm more accurately. In general, two main types can be distinguished.

Women are diagnosed with depression more often than men: in men, the risk of getting sick is 7-12%, in women – 20-25%

Endogenous depression occurs in the context of a violation of neurotransmitter metabolism, most often in the context of complete social well-being. There may be mood swings during the day with improvement at night. The dominance of emotions such as guilt and anxiety is clearly felt. Perceptions of the future are often pessimistic and hopeless.

Psychogenic depression occurs under the influence of traumatic situations. During the day, mood swings are virtually unnoticed: they are consistently bad. You may notice sleep disturbances: difficulty sleeping, waking up in the middle of the night. Emotions such as indignation, irritability, constant search for culprits in their situation prevail. The vision for the future is always based on the hope of improvement.

Women are diagnosed with depression more often than men: in men, the risk of getting sick is 7-12%, in women – 20-25%. Scientists can not yet find a single reason for this variation. Most likely, this may be due to the fact that women seek help more often, as well as the greater the impact of the stress factor and the greater biological vulnerability, especially often in the postpartum period.

Postpartum depression occurs in 10-13% of women who have recently given birth. Most often, it begins to appear 30-35 days after birth and can last up to 1.5-2 years. Talking about postpartum depression is very important, because in most cases in the initial period it remains unrecognizable. Society still condemns and does not recognize postpartum depression or classifies it as a whim of a young mother, which contributes to the development of the disorder and makes it difficult to diagnose.

There may also be other differences in the structure of depression in men and women. For women, loss of appetite, mood swings, suicidal thoughts, lack of strength, constant stress and guilt are more typical. Men are more likely to experience decreased motivation, panic attacks, alcohol abuse and other psychotropic substances.

In children, the onset and increase of depressive symptoms vary with age. Thus, in children aged 6-8 years, sadness, crying, weakness, despair, immersion in their experiences are more often observed. Children 8-12 years old begin to change self-esteem, there is an expectation of failures and misfortunes. Adolescents develop feelings of guilt, self-flagellation, passive and active thoughts of self-harm.

Why Depression Occurs And How It Affects The Brain

There can be many causes of depression, but it is important to note the main ones, which traditionally include biological, psychological and social. Speaking of biological causes, one can rely on the concept of monoamine, according to which depression is caused by a lack of serotonin mediation.

The most well-known function of serotonin is related to the control of negative emotions. In our brain, there is a subtle job to maintain a balance between the centers of positive and negative emotions. As a result, by lowering the serotonin level, it already ceases to suppress those centers associated with indignation, sadness, frustration and the person begins to feel them very actively. Other biological causes can also cause depression, namely hormonal changes (during pregnancy, postpartum, hypothyroidism or menopause) and weakness (as a result of infectious diseases such as COVID-19).

Mild depression can be difficult to distinguish from sadness and melancholy, easily confused with blues or apathy

Depression can also have social causes. Domestic violence, constant comparisons with others, the cult of success, growing up in a culture of perfectionism – all lead to a high stress load, which can lead to the development of a depressive disorder.

Psychological reasons are largely considered a person’s way of thinking, his habits, behavioral stereotypes, which initially radiate a negative view of himself, the future, the world, which is always cruel and unjust. The trigger for the development of depression in this case is usually intense stress or a traumatic experience (job loss, death of a loved one, divorce or separation from a partner).

Depending on the severity, there are traditionally three degrees of depression. Light can be difficult to distinguish from sadness and melancholy, it is easily confused with blues or apathy. The totality of the symptoms and their severity do not yet allow a clear diagnosis of depressive disorders, but with a high probability of a person developing depression in the future. This condition is also called depressive or subsystemic (minor) depression.

A moderate degree is characterized by a distinct clinical picture, but an individual is able to function fully (or almost completely) in society. Only the severe form is associated with severe symptoms, up to loss of function, delusions or hallucinations.

Symptoms and signs of depression

Depression can be successfully treated and at first it appears only as normal symptoms: drowsiness, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain (the cause of which can not be determined by a cardiologist). All of this should already be a reason to take care of your mental health. However, there are also characteristic symptoms that make it possible to diagnose a person with depression. If you notice symptoms within two weeks, see your doctor. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Depressed mood, the main emotions are sadness, melancholy, anxiety, sadness, irritability.
  • loss of opportunity to enjoy even what used to interest or delight.
  • a feeling of guilt that occurs frequently, which tends to increase constantly.
  • loss of confidence, the appearance in this background of thoughts about his own worthlessness, uselessness and uselessness.
  • constant fatigue, feeling that there is no power even for the simplest and easiest things.
  • abrupt fluctuations in weight and appetite, may decrease and increase.
  • sleep disorders, difficulty sleeping, insomnia, sleep deprivation or, conversely, increased drowsiness.
  • recurring suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.

One of the most common psychodiagnostic methods for diagnosing and self-diagnosing depression is the Aaron Beck Depression Scale. However, it is worth noting that depression as a disorder can not be diagnosed with the results of a single test, so entrust the interpretation of the data to a specialist. Based on your history, symptoms, general condition and diagnostic results, it will accurately determine the disease.

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You need to understand that only a psychiatrist can diagnose depression. Self-medication is very dangerous, so the first thing to do when you have similar symptoms is to seek professional help. The treatment for depression is always based on two pillars – medication, which is chosen individually by the doctor, and psychotherapy, which will teach you how to deal with various conditions and the factors that cause them.

In addition to medical care, you can start taking care of yourself: get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, do not hesitate to seek support from your loved ones, increase physical activity (at least 30 minutes of walking a day), stop drinking alcohol or other psychoactive substances.

What to do if a loved one is depressed

First and foremost, take care of yourself. To support a loved one, you must have a sufficient amount of internal resource. Watch your situation, do not take full responsibility, relax. If necessary, seek psychological help.

It is very important not to underestimate the situation of a loved one and not to give him harsh advice. The phrases “Do not be sad!”, “Pull yourself!”, “What depression, better wash the floors / find yourself a husband / give birth to a child – and everything will pass” will deeply hurt a person, and maybe not he will now want to share his feelings with you. state or feeling depressed. Focus on actions, not words – you can help your loved ones with household chores. Making tea, grocery shopping or even ordering a delivery can be very difficult when you are depressed and combined with the occasional loss of appetite, can lead to more serious consequences.

Support and be there. Sometimes it will not be easy, because your loved one can become irritable, sad, emotional. It is important to show that you remain there and are ready to support, despite the negative emotions that appear in your direction.

The opinion of the authors may not coincide with the opinion of the author

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