Symptoms and Treatment of Depression

It is common for all of us to feel low at times. This is normal. However, in some individuals, this feeling continues to stay for a period of two months or more. Such a state is called depression.

This illness is serious and needs to be attended medically.

What Causes Depression?

Biochemical Changes in the Brain Leading to Depression

Depression is often associated with changes in chemicals inside the brain. Most of the medicines used to treat depression are based over this principal of causation.

There is a reduction in the amount of monoamoines (serotonin and norepinephrine). Both of these chemicals are neurotransmitters found in the brain cells.

However, it has also been observed that if you consciously start feeling low and participate in fewer pleasure giving activities, your serotonin levels in the brain start declining.

This becomes a viscous cycle, further propagating into the cause of depression.

Depression is not a disease, but a natural response to certain types of emotional introspection that result in excessive dreaming.

Types

There can be more than one type of expression of this illness. Some patients feel sad all the time. The severity of their sadness is not much. However, the feeling is persistent. Any pleasurable activity is not able to abort this sadness.

The phase may continue for at least two years or more. This pattern of depression may be called persistent depressive disorder.

There is another form called the major depression. Here, the patient is alright otherwise, but may have episodes of depression in between. Like, for example, he is leading a normal life. While all goes well, he may suddenly start feeling sad and depressed. Any such episode may take 2 weeks to 2 months to go.

After that, he’s normal again. He keep getting such episodes of depression.

One may also have episodes of major depression during the prevailing illness of persistent depressive disorder.

Other Variations of Symptoms Seen in Depression

Psychotic depression

The patient here is depressed and present with some kind of delusions or false beliefs. For example, he may feel as if he is abused or exploited. He may even complain of seeing or hearing unreal things.

Condition Predisposing to Depression

The expression of depression may require a trigger. The following condition may trigger depression-

  • Transition phases of life, like the teenage, retirement from jobs, menopause. All these situations are emotionally charged. They involve certain hormonal changes in the body that may invoke emotions and increase emotional needs. If the increased needs are not met, there are chances that the person may go under depression.
  • Unfortunate events like, an accident, loss of loved one, Difficult relationship
  • Postpartum depression- This occurs in around 10 to 15% woman after having a baby. Feelings of handling new responsibilities of the new born, coupled with drastic changes in the hormonal levels may predispose to depression.
  • Winter depression, also called the seasonal affective disorder. Cause attributed to this kind of depression is lack of sunlight. Sunlight is a natural mood lifter. When there’s no sun for long periods, it’s common for depression to set in easily.

Symptoms

Depression may be perceived differently by different individuals. One may have any of the following feelings-

  • Feeling sad or empty inside is the commonest symptom. One may feel like crying all the time.
  • Pessimism, that’s nothing is going to get better anyway.
  • Irritability or anger over people around you.
  • Loss of interest in activities that where pleasurable earlier.
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns
  • Disturbed eating habits, one may lose weight due to under-eating or become overweight due to eating more
  • Vague complains of pains or aches in any part of the body
  • Finally, thoughts associated with attempts to commit suicide.

Management

Once diagnosed, medical help is available. It is possible to revert back the change of chemical in the brain, hence reverting back the emotional state of depression.

Psychotherapy, preferably by an experts, coupled with medicines is the mainstay of treatment.

Medicines

SSRIs

These include medicines like  Fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil).

Tricyclics

Include imipramine and nortriptyline.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

This is the oldest class of anti depressants. It is avoided now a days, mainly due to its adverse interactions with certain food stuff, like cheese and red wine, and many medicines.

Be careful while taking any of the above mentioned medicines. All of them have certain degree of dependency. Also, they have adverse effects, when taken for longer durations.

MAOs when taken with SSRIs can lead to serious drug interactions.

Stopping any of the medicines is not a good practice. You may get severe withdrawal symptoms.

Always taper them off gradually, under the supervision of your doctor.

Other factors, like staying among your loved ones, getting adequate sunlight and right psychotherapy are important in the treatment of depression.