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Depression is a complex and pervasive mental health disorder. It goes beyond occasional feelings of sadness and can significantly impact a person’s daily life. 

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder. It is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in once-enjoyable activities. It can also affect thinking, memory, eating, and sleeping patterns.

While it’s normal to feel sadness in response to life challenges, depression is different. It lasts nearly every day for at least two weeks and involves more than just feeling sad. There are various types of depressive disorders, with clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, being the most severe. Without treatment, depression can worsen and persist longer. In severe cases, it may lead to self-harm or suicide. 

The two major types of depression are:

1.  Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): This is the most common form of depression. It is often referred to simply as “depression.” MDD is characterized by:

·      persistent feelings of sadness

·      a lack of interest or pleasure in activities

·      other symptoms that significantly impact daily life

To be diagnosed with MDD, these symptoms must be present nearly every day for at least two weeks.

2.  Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD): Formerly known as dysthymia, PDD is a chronic form of depression. It is characterized by long-term, persistent depressive symptoms. While the symptoms may not be as intense as those in major depressive disorder, they last for a longer duration, typically for two years or more. Individuals with PDD may experience fluctuations in the severity of their symptoms over time.

These two types of depression represent broad categories, and within each, there are various subtypes and variations. 

What are the symptoms of depression?

Depression symptoms vary slightly depending on the type, ranging from moderate to severe. Generally, symptoms include:

·      Not appreciating activities that used to provide joy.

·      Feeling extremely sorrowful, hopeless, or worried. Children and adolescents with depression may appear irritable rather than sad.

·      Being quickly annoyed or frustrated.

·      Insomnia and hypersomnia.

·      Eating too much or too little which causes weight gain or decrease.

·      Feeling tired or lacking in energy.

·      Having physical problems such as stomachaches, headaches, or sexual dysfunction.

·      Having difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering information.

Thinking of self-harm or suicide.

Causes and risk factors of depression

Understanding the causes and risk factors associated with depression is crucial for both prevention and effective treatment. Several factors contribute to the development of depression, including:

1.  Biological Factors: Imbalances in neurotransmitters, brain structure abnormalities, and genetic predispositions can contribute to the onset of depression.

2.  Psychological Factors: Past trauma, chronic stress, low self-esteem, and certain personality traits can increase vulnerability to depression.

3.  Environmental Factors: Adverse life events, such as loss, trauma, or financial difficulties, can trigger or exacerbate depressive symptoms.

4.  Medical Conditions: Chronic illnesses, hormonal imbalances, and certain medications can contribute to the development of depression.

Treatment approaches for depression

Depression is a treatable condition, and various approaches can be effective in managing symptoms. Common treatment modalities include:

1.  Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is effective in helping individuals understand and manage their depressive thoughts and behaviors. This includes:

·      Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

·      psychodynamic therapy

·      interpersonal therapy

2.  Medication: Antidepressant medications help regulate neurotransmitter levels in the brain. These are:

·      serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

·      selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

3.  Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): ECT may be considered for severe cases of depression that do not respond to other treatments. It involves passing an electric current through the brain to induce controlled seizures.

4.  Lifestyle Changes: Lifestyle changes are essential components of a comprehensive treatment plan. These include:

·      Regular exercise

·      Eating a balanced diet

·      Sufficient sleep

·      Stress management