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Depression: An Overview

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Updated July 26, 2012

Depression

A study found that women with PCOS are more likely to develop depression or depressive symptoms. This may have some correlation with the psychological and metabolic effects of obesity. Depression is a severe mood disorder which may or may not affect the way that people function in their daily life. It’s not simply being sad, or “down in the dumps.” People cannot simply “pull themselves out of it,” and usually require help in the form of psychotherapy or medication.

Types of Depression

Major Depressive Disorder: Characterized by an inability to function in their daily lives, sufferers often have many symptoms. This may last weeks to months. Approximately 5% of the population is dealing with depression at a given moment. Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men, although men are less likely to get help. It may occur as an isolated depression stemming from a major event such as a death, or there may be many recurrences over the sufferer’s lifespan.

Dysthymia: Usually less severe, dysthymia tends to be a more chronic form of depression which lasts for a longer time. Patients usually experience similar, though less intense symptoms. Sufferers may also have a major depression at the same time, what is known as double depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: This is a depression which occurs at the same time each year. It typically begins in the fall or early winter, and ends by spring. Prevalence increases where seasonal changes become more extreme, causing theorists to hypothesize that amount of sunlight exposure may contribute to the disorder. Extreme fatigue, lack of energy and fatigue are typically experienced.

Causes:

Depression is a complex disorder, in which several factors may contribute to the disease. Experiencing many stressors at once (such as financial problems, death or illness of a loved one, one’s own illness, moving or job loss), certain medications, and even positive life changes, (getting married, having a baby or starting a new school) can all trigger a depression. There is some evidence that there may be a genetic component involved; however, that alone does not cause depression. Frequently, it is a combination of genetic and environmental issues that initiate the depression.

Symptoms:

Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Change in eating
  • Sleeping more then usual
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities previously enjoyed
  • Persistently feeling down or sad
  • Loneliness
  • Weight changes – gain or loss
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Inability or difficulty in making decisions
  • Physical pains such as neck/backache, headache, digestive issues
A diagnosis of depression is usually made when someone has a depressed mood in addition to many of the symptoms listed above.

Treatment:

There are many forms of psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy, out there which depend on the theory of psychology the practitioner uses. Finding someone to talk to can be helpful in dealing with difficult or painful feelings. It is also helpful in changing the negative thinking patterns that are common in depression.

Medication may also be an option that you consider with your doctor. Many types of antidepressants are on the market, so it may take a little time before you find one that works for you. It is important to take the medication exactly as prescribed, and make sure to discuss anything else you are taking with your doctor. The medication may take several weeks to be effective, so give it a little time to work. Even if you are feeling better, do not abruptly stop taking the medication, as some require the dosage to be tapered down.

Getting Help:

If you or someone you know may be depressed, there are a number of places to get help. Mention what you are feeling to your doctor, or make an appointment with a psychologist or counselor. If you are unsure where to find someone, check your local yellow pages, or ask a local health clinic for a referral.

Sources:

"Depression". National Institute of Mental Health. 9 September 2006. Accessed 13 September 2007.

Van Voorhies, Benjamin W. MD, PhD. "Depression". U.S. National Library of Medicine. Updated 17 May 2007. Accessed 19 September 2007.

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