Depression

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Clinical depression refers to more than just a feeling of sadness. Sadness triggered by an upsetting or life changing event is normal and experienced by almost everyone at some point in their lives. However, this type of sadness is transient and usually lasts only a few days.

Clinical depression describes when this feeling persists for weeks or months. Depression is a clinical condition that, contrary to popular opinion, cannot simply be overcome with time and it needs to be treated. Depression has an underlying pathology which is thought to originate in the brain and involve a deficiency of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. A hereditary element to depression has also previously been shown.

Diagnosis and symptoms of depression

Depression manifests differently between individuals. Symptoms are wide ranging but some of the major ones that help confirm a depression diagnosis are:

  • A feeling of sadness, hopelessness and tearfulness that may last for weeks, months or years
  • A loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed and lack of motivation to fulfil usual daily activities
  • Symptoms of anxiety alongside the depression
  • Tiredness
  • Sleep disorder that may manifest as either excessive sleeping or inability to fall or stay asleep at night.
  • Change in eating habits that may involve either a loss of appetite or overeating with bouts of binge eating
  • Loss of sex drive or libido
  • Feeling vague pains and aches
  • Thinking about and planning suicide

Causes of depression

Life changing events such as job change, moving house, bereavement, financial difficulties and divorce are all triggers for sadness that may go on to become clinical depression. Depression is quite common and affects around 1% of the general population. Both genders are affected by the condition and people of any age may experience it.

Treatment of depression

Depression may be treated with a single or combined approach and examples include:

  • Antidepressants medications such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors fluoxetine, escitalopram and paroxetine
  • Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy or counselling may be used either alone or in combination with antidepressant medication
  • Support groups can help prevent relapse and improve lifestyle to help ensure rehabilitation

Reviewed by , BSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Oct 14, 2013

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