They say depression is the disease of the century – and they may actually be right. The number of people suffering from various forms of depression is alarming. And what is even more alarming is that even very young children can suffer from this very painful mental disorder.
As well-known as it may be, clinical depression or major depressive disorder (its more “official” name) is still relatively mysterious to the medical world. Nobody actually knows with precision what it is that causes depression to develop in human beings. All we know is that the suffering can get so tough, even to the point that physical symptoms arise. This means that many of the people suffering from this mental disorder end up having suicidal thoughts.
Depression: What We Know
As it was mentioned, there is little known about depression itself and what triggers it exactly. But what we have learned so far is crucial for anyone trying to understand why they suffer from clinical depression – and even more importantly, how to learn to live with it.
Basically, depression is a mental disorder that causes an individual to experience persistent low moods, low self-esteem and loss of pleasure in life. Keep in mind that the major depressive disorder is not one in the same thing with how people very often describe a non-persistent lower mood. This is an actual condition and the statistics for it are very alarming for most of the people who get to know them: 3.4% of the people diagnosed with major depressive disorder commit suicide and no less than 60% of the people who commit suicide suffer from this mood disorder or other mood disorders (such as manic depression/bipolar depression – which is a different condition).
The symptoms shown by people with clinical depression are probably known to you: low mood, low self-esteem, worthlessness, helplessness, guilt, regret, self-hatred, insomnia (which occurs in 80% of the people suffering with this condition), hypersomnia (the opposite of insomnia), psychosis, delusions, hallucinations and a series of physical symptoms as well (digestive issues, fatigue, headaches and so on). All these symptoms keep an individual from leading a normal life. Very often people suffering from the major depressive disorder will even withdraw from social activities and perform poorly in work and/or school.
Physical pain is a very real thing in people with depression and there are some forms of chronic pain that have been very much associated (and even overlapped) with depression. For instance, people with fibromyalgia were considered to suffer from a very “physical form” of depression and it wasn’t until quite recently that fibromyalgia was acknowledged as a medical condition in its own right.
Very frequently, depression coexists with other medical conditions as well. Anxiety and stress are two other conditions that very commonly come along with depression and which can affect a person throughout their entire lifetime. Furthermore, drug and alcohol abuse are common with depressive people and so are ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions. Also, it is worth keeping in mind the fact that people suffering from depression also show increased risk of developing heart-related medical conditions as well.
The Causes that Lead to Depression
There is no unanimous response to the question of what exactly causes depression. However, there are several schools of thought that adopt different points of view when it comes to trying to explain the phenomena.
Some researchers believe that the cause that leads to the development of depression lies in biological factors. According to them, the answer lies in the way certain neurotransmitters in the human brain start to behave erratically when the levels of serotonin drop. These neurotransmitters are responsible for pleasure, happiness as well as levels of energy, and they are a potential explanation to how the symptoms behind depression arise.
Other researchers blame the development of depression on psychological factors such as personality traits and development. According to them, depression appears in people who have a personality inclined towards depression and who experience certain events in their lives that trigger the onset of this mood disorder.
An interesting approach is provided by those researchers who believe depression is a cause of our evolution as human beings. According to these people, the high prevalence of inherited depression is due to the fact that the human gene pool has developed some form of “depressive gene” meant to help with the reproductive fitness.
Depression and Suicidal Thoughts
It happens very often that people associate depression with suicidal thoughts – and not without any reason, actually. Depressive people experience a wide range of emotions which can be overwhelming. Not finding pleasure in things one used to love, not being able to find a meaning in life, feeling helpless when faced with events that go beyond human control – all these things can lead a person to the edge of a breakdown.
When depression comes along with physical symptoms as well, life is really difficult to handle. Even more than that (and very much paradoxically), suicidal thoughts are frequently associated with anti-depressive medication as well. In certain cases, medication does not elevate one’s mood, but “settles” the negative feelings to the point where a person is feeling “numb” and the feelings of worthlessness are accentuated. Consequently, this leads some people who are under medical treatment for depression to experience suicidal thoughts.
It is of the utmost importance that those who experience low moods for extended periods of time visit a specialist and receive treatment. From counseling (group or personal) to certain forms of therapy, there are many things one can do to alleviate the pain (on the inside and on the outside as well). Depression may not be “cured”, but it can be handled and there are many, many examples of people who have learned to live with it.
Life can be beautiful again, but those who find themselves in such situations should definitely seek out help because the condition can actually worsen if left completely untreated for long periods of time.