Some people say that depression feels like a black curtain of despair coming down over their lives. Many people feel like they have no energy and can’t concentrate. Others feel irritable all the time for no apparent reason. The symptoms vary from person to person, but if you feel “down” for more than two weeks, and these feelings are interfering with your daily life, you may be clinically depressed.
Most people who have gone through one episode of depression will, sooner or later, have another one. You may begin to feel some of the symptoms of depression several weeks before you develop a full-blown episode of depression. Learning to recognize these early triggers or symptoms and working with your doctor will help to keep the depression from worsening.
Most people with depression never seek help, even though the majority will respond to treatment. Treating depression is especially important because it affects you, your family, and your work. Some people with depression try to harm themselves in the mistaken belief that how they are feeling will never change. Depression is a treatable illness.
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity. A depressed person will experience or display some of the following.
Persistent sadness, anxiety or feelings of emptiness
Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and/or pessimism.
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Contemplating suicide or suicide attempt
Problems concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
Fatigue and loss of energy
Persistent aches, pains or digestive problems that are resistant to treatment
Irritability or restlessness
Insomnia, waking early, or excessive sleeping
Overeating, or appetite loss
Loss of interest in activities that once were pleasurable (e.g., hobbies, sex, social activities, etc.)
Anxiety & Depression
They may seem like opposites, but depression and anxiety often occur together. The loneliness, hopelessness, and sadness of depression can make you afraid and anxious. In turn, this fear and anxiety may make you exhausted and more depressed. It’s a vicious cycle, and often there’s no way to say which condition came first.
Anxiety takes many different forms. Some people with anxiety disorders suffer panic attacks, which are sudden bouts of extreme fear along with a racing heart, breathlessness, and even pain. Others have anxiety that causes them to often relive traumatic events from their past. Anxiety can make people terrified of social situations, or give them extreme fears of certain objects or situations, making it seem impossible to get in an elevator, for example.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, and each has specific symptoms. But they all have these things in common:
Extreme fear and dread, even when there is no real danger
Emotional distress that interferes with daily life
A tendency to avoid situations that bring on anxiety
Like depression, anxiety is treatable with therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Antidepressants can affect anxiety that is associated with depression. Some antidepressants also treat full fledged anxiety disorders. Your healthcare provider can discuss further treatments for anxiety with you.
Causes of Depression
Depression has no single cause; often, it results from a combination of things. You may have no idea why depression has struck you. Whatever its cause, depression is not just a state of mind. It is related to physical changes in the brain, and connected to an imbalance of a type of chemical that carries signals in your brain and nerves. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters.
Some of the more common factors involved in depression are:
Family history. Genetics play an important part in depression. It can run in families for generations.
Trauma and stress. Things like financial problems, the breakup of a relationship, or the death of a loved one can bring on depression. You can become depressed after changes in your life, like starting a new job, graduating from school, or getting married.
Pessimistic personality. People who have low self-esteem and a negative outlook are at higher risk of becoming depressed. These traits may actually be caused by low-level depression (called dysthymia).
Physical conditions. Serious medical conditions like heart disease, cancer, and HIV can contribute to depression, partly because of the physical weakness and stress they bring on. Depression can make medical conditions worse, since it weakens the immune system and can make pain harder to bear. In some cases, depression can be caused by medications used to treat medical conditions.
Other psychological disorders. Anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and (especially) substance abuse often appear along with depression.
Exercise and Depression