Is It Depression? Symptoms, Causes & How to Get Help

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Depression: symptoms, treatment, causes
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Depression, often referred to as major depressive disorder, is a mental health condition characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities. It goes beyond the normal ups and downs that people experience in life. Depression can significantly impact a person’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and physical well-being.

Symptoms

The symptoms of MDD can vary from person to person, but they typically include:

  • Depressed mood: Feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or down most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure: Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable, such as hobbies, sex, or spending time with friends and family.
  • Changes in appetite: Significant weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting or exercise, or increased or decreased appetite.
  • Changes in sleep: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or sleeping too much.
  • Changes in energy levels: Fatigue or loss of energy, or feeling restless or having an increase in energy.
  • Changes in concentration and decision-making: Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or thinking clearly.
  • Changes in physical activity: Slowed movements or feeling fidgety or restless.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide: Thoughts of death or suicide, or a suicide attempt.

Treatment

The treatment for MDD typically involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help people learn to change unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviors. Medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help reduce the symptoms of depression.

Association

Depression can often be associated with other mental illnesses. This is known as comorbidity, which means that an individual can have more than one mental health condition simultaneously. Some of the common mental health disorders that can be associated with depression include:

  • Anxiety Disorders: Conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can frequently co-occur with depression. The symptoms of anxiety, such as excessive worry, restlessness, and fear, can overlap with those of depression.
  • Bipolar Disorder: Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder involves alternating periods of depression and mania (or hypomania), which are characterized by elevated mood, increased energy, and impulsive behavior.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Individuals who have experienced traumatic events might develop PTSD, which can involve symptoms like intrusive memories, nightmares, and emotional numbness. Depression often accompanies PTSD due to the emotional toll of the trauma.
  • Substance Use Disorders: People with depression are at a higher risk of developing substance use disorders, as they might turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their emotional pain.
  • Eating Disorders: Conditions like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder can be linked to depression. The distorted body image and intense emotions associated with these disorders can contribute to depressive symptoms.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: This disorder is characterized by intense mood swings, unstable relationships, and a fear of abandonment. Depression is often experienced during low periods of mood in individuals with borderline personality disorder.
  • Schizophrenia: Individuals with schizophrenia might experience a range of symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. Depression can occur as part of the overall picture of this complex disorder.
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): ADHD can sometimes coexist with depression, especially when the challenges of managing ADHD symptoms contribute to feelings of frustration and low self-esteem.
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