Depression can effect anyone at anytime. Feeling blue, sad, hopeless and pessimistic is something we all experience at times. We can all feel pressured to a point where nothing seems to give us pleasure and it becomes hard to get interested in things or to get started. These feelings are a normal part of being human. At times however these feelings can become overwhelming, intense and ongoing to such an extent that daily functioning seems difficult or impossible. When this happens you may be experiencing depression. Depression has been called the “Common Cold” of Mental Health.

What can cause it?

Depression is typically caused by a combination of biological, genetic and psychological factors.

  • Environmental Factors – Examples may include: difficulty adjusting to uni life, a bad living situation, academic difficulties, financial problems, loss of something significant (a job, goals) or being victimized (robbery, assault).
  • Interpersonal Factors – Examples may include: relationship problems or breakdowns, family conflicts or the loss of a loved one.
  • Physical/Medical Factors – Examples may include: food allergies, unhealthy diets, genetic predispositions, chemical imbalances, illness, sleep deprivation or chronic anxiety.
  • Diet/Exercise Factors – Examples may include: fast foods, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, substance abuse or lack of exercise.
  • Thoughts/Perceptions Factors – Examples may include: negative self talk, pessimistic thinking or a low sense of self worth.
  • Spiritual/Philosophical Factors – Examples may include: doubts about the meaning of life, questions about your own religious beliefs or your true calling in life or a questioning of your dreams and beliefs.

    Nine common symptoms

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities normally enjoyed
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain when not dieting, or decrease or increase in appetite
  • Sleep disturbance - either trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Feeling restless or slowed down
  • Decreased energy or feeling tired
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach or inappropriate guilt
  • Diminished ability to think, concentrate, remember or make decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt, or a specific plan for committing suicide.

    Types of depression

    Depression can take many different forms. Here are a few common types of depression:

  • Major Depressive Disorder is characterized by 5+ symptoms of depression for most of the day, nearly every day, for 2+ weeks. The symptoms are severe enough to interfere with daily life.
  • Dysthymia is a milder, more chronic type of depression that is characterized by having a depressed mood and 2+ other symptoms of depression for more days than not for at least 2 years.
  • Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression) is marked by alternating periods of depressive symptoms and manic symptoms (elevated or irritable mood, inflated self-esteem, inability to stop talking, racing thoughts, increase in goal-directed activity, excessive involvement in risky activities).

    How is depression treated?

  • Fortunately, depression is highly treatable. More than 80% of individuals with depression who receive treatment experience significant improvement. The most common treatments for depression are medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.
  • Medication. The most common types of medication used to treat depression are called SSRIs. SSRIs help regulate the levels of serotonin in the brain, which often helps alleviate the symptoms of depression. Another group of antidepressants are SSNRIs, which regulate the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. A psychiatrist (a certified medical doctor with additional training related to psychological disorders) works with the depressed individual to determine which medication might be best and how long the person should remain on medication.
  • Psychotherapy. Many individuals with depression benefit from working with a licensed therapist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker. Therapists can help depressed individuals understand their illness and learn effective, healthy ways of managing their symptoms.
  • Combination. Studies suggest that a combination of medication and psychotherapy is often the most effective treatment for depression.
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