Have you ever experienced the lasting feeling of sadness, restlessness, hopelessness or worthlessness? The present day lifestyle puts us in stressful conditions and there is a constant pressure to perform at peak levels. It eventually makes us depressed.
It is common nowadays to lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable. These symptoms point towards the state of depression and in extreme cases, it may even lead people to contemplate or attempt suicide.
Believe it or not, Depression is all set to become second most common health disorder (placed after Heart Attack), across the world by the year 2020. Yes, Depression is a common mental disorder that is increasing at an alarming rate among general public.
As per the reliable estimates, Depression will soon become leading cause of death and disability the world over.
What is Depression?
In simple terms, Depression is a state of low mood. The depressed person usually shows signs of sadness, hopelessness, guilty, worthlessness, etc.
Depression influences the thoughts and behaviour of the affected person. If left untreated, the symptoms may become severe and affect the physical well being of person.
Depression can manifests itself in various ways.
• As a normal reaction to certain life events
• As a symptom of some medical conditions
• As a result of certain treatment therapy
• As a feature of certain psychiatric syndromes
Common Symptoms of Depression
Depressed people can exhibit wide range of symptoms from losing interest in pleasurable activities to contemplating suicide. It harbours pessimistic attitude in the affected people who begin to view everything with negative attitude.
Depression causes profound effect on self esteem of the person accompanied with various other problems such as loss of appetite, problems in making decisions, difficulty in concentrating, etc.
Symptoms of depression can be summarised as follows:
• Agitation and irritability
• Loss of appetite
• Weight gain or loss
• Difficulty in concentration
• Low self esteem with feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, guilty
• Feeling of isolation
• Lack of interest in activities that were once pleasurable
• Severe cases may include hallucinations and delusions
• Thoughts of contemplating Death or Suicide
Types of Depression
Broadly, Depression can be categorised into following types.
• Major Depression: In this depression, the normal life activities of the patient get affected and he/she may find it difficult to eat, work, sleep, study, and like once-pleasurable activities.
• Dysthymic Disorder: This depression is characterized by symptoms that persist for long-term (for 2 years or more). Although the symptoms are not severe however they can prevent normal functioning in affected individuals.
• Minor depression: This depression is characterized by symptoms that persist for short time period (for 2 weeks or longer).
• Bipolar disorder: This depression is characterized by cycling mood changes that range from extreme highs (mania stage) to extreme lows (depression stage).
Diagnosis and assessment of Depression
The doctors perform the medical examination of the depressed patient and carry out selected investigations for ruling out other symptoms that may cause depression.
Common Diagnostic Procedures
• Full patient medical history
• Physical Assessment
• Thorough evaluation of symptoms
• Standardized questionnaires like Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, and the Beck Depression Inventory
Selected investigations for ruling out other Causes
• Blood tests for TSH and thyroxin levels for excluding hypothyroidism
• Basic electrolytes and serum calcium for ruling out metabolic disturbances
• Full blood count including ESR for ruling out a systemic infection
• Adverse affective reactions for medications
• Adverse affective reactions for alcohol misuse
• Evaluation of Testosterone levels for diagnosing hypogonadism
• Subjective cognitive complaints in older depressed people
• Cognitive testing and brain imaging for distinguishing between depression and dementia
• CT scan for excluding brain pathology in psychotic cases
There are various types of treatment therapies available for treating depression.
• Medications like antidepressants
• Cognitive-behavioural therapy
• Music therapy
• Art therapy
• Group therapy
• Animal-assisted therapy
• Physical exercise
• Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
• Tran cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
• Light therapy