Depression—Symptoms and Treatment (2)

“Tom’s depressed because Katie’s gone away and won’t be able to come to his party tonight”.

“I’m so depressed because I spent the whole day shopping for a present for Kyle and I couldn’t find anything!”

Like many psychiatric terms, the word “depression” is often used in everyday language to express a normal, everyday, human experience. Clinical depression is, however, not a normal, everyday human experience, yet it is surprisingly common in the community. But, unlike the above examples, true depression cannot be quickly alleviated by a quick shot of retail therapy or a trip to the cinema with a friend.

Depression is not just a sad mood that will pass with a sudden change in circumstances. It is a serious illness that affects the entire body, and it is important for the sufferer or the family of the sufferer to seek medical help as soon as possible.

Depression may occur for any number of reasons. It may occur suddenly after a loss or trauma, or more commonly, it may slowly develop over a series of weeks or months, often so slowly that the person concerned, as well as their family and friends, do not initially recognize the condition for what it is. By this stage, the condition might be quite advanced, and quick intervention is required.

Depression may also go undetected for long periods of time because it may manifest primarily as a physical illness. Trips to the local doctor may take the form of a raft of vague and often changing physical complaints, but the underlying root cause of these illnesses, (which are, in fact, real) is depression.

Given that depression will affect us all, either directly or indirectly, throughout the course of their lives, it is unfortunate that, as with all forms of mental illness, there is a stigma attached to the condition. Apart from failure to correctly diagnose depression, it is the stigma associated with mental illness s that also prevents many people from seeking help. It is often only when the person has broken down completely before treatment can begin in earnest.

Despite decades of research, very little is known about the actual mechanism that drives depression. Although many doctors and researchers will talk of depleted levels of neurotransmitters in the brain as the root cause of depression, there exists no measurable tests for determining neurotransmitter levels at present, and much of the theory surrounding the cause of depression and other emotional disturbances is based on observation rather than factual evidence. Even the concept that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain is contentious. Furthermore, if such an imbalance exists, it is not known whether the imbalance is the cause of the depression or the depression has resulted in the imbalance. No doubt, future research will uncover the true nature of depression. In the meantime, there are several available methods of treating depression.

In future articles, we will look at several of these treatments.

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