All You Need to Know About Clinical Depression
--- TABLE OF CONTENTS ---
- All You Need to Know About Clinical Depression
- Signs and Symptoms of Depression
- In Children and Teens
- College Students
- Depression Test
- Causes and Risk Factors of Clinical Depression
- Depression Management
Clinical Depression is a mood disorder characterized by the continuous loss of interest and extreme sadness. In some instances, people confuse depression with mood fluctuations which is an everyday occurrence. Various events may lead one to depression, including loss of a source of income and bereavement. However, physicians may only consider the grief to be part of depression in case it persists. Depression is an ongoing problem, and if not managed early enough, it may last for months or several years.
Individuals experience depression in various ways. For others, it may interrupt their occupation, leading to loss of time and reduced productivity. Depression can negatively influence relationships and sometimes causes chronic health problems. Conditions that can exacerbate because of depression are obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, and arthritis.
It’s important to remember that everyone will face feeling sad due to upsetting situations and circumstances. However, a feeling of constant hopelessness may be an indication of depression. Depression is a severe medical disorder that exacerbates in the absence of prompt medical attention. Depressed individuals who seek help immediately report significant improvement in symptoms after a few weeks.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Symptoms of depression may include:
- Loss of energy or fatigue
- Excessive or little sleep
- Unintentional gain or loss in weight
- Variation in appetite
- Low libido
- Reduced interest in activities you used to enjoy
Other symptoms are suicidal thoughts, difficulty in making decisions or concentrating, and a feeling of worthlessness. Recent studies reveal that women are more prone to depressive illness than men. Depression in females is often characterized by ruminating, fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, and irritability. Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorders and post-partum depression are also unique to females.
As per American Psychological Association, 9% of US males are prone to depression or anxiety. Depressed males are more likely to abuse alcohol, take risks, and display anger than depressed females. In their tasks, depressed men may work without breaks, evade social and family functions, experience challenges in keeping up with family and work responsibilities.
In Children and Teens
Within the United States, about 3.2% of teens between 3 and 17 years of age and children are depressed. Among children, depression disrupts their participation in social activities and schoolwork. Vocal outbursts, defiant behaviors, clinginess, low energy, and crying are symptoms of depression in children. Children experience difficulty in expressing their feelings verbally. Hence, they may not fully express their sadness.
Teens experience a lot of developmental changes at the puberty stage. Physical differences and peer pressure may lead to depression among teenagers. Depressed teens report restlessness, worthlessness, hopelessness, and guilt. Besides, they experience challenges concentrating on school work and often withdraw from family members and friends.
College life can be stressful. An individual may have to cope with new experiences, cultures, and lifestyles for the first time. Getting used to these changes can be an uphill task for some students. The challenge may lead to a lot of anxiety and depression. The following symptoms are common among depressed college students:
- Evading social activities and situations they used to take part in
- Reduced appetite
- Excessive sleeping
- Inability to concentrate on schoolwork
There is no particular diagnostic test for depression. However, your physician will make the diagnosis based on the psychological evaluation and the available symptoms. During diagnosis, the physician may inquire about your thoughts, activity level, sleep patterns, appetite, and mood.
Because depression may co-occur with other health conditions, the physician will carry out physical examinations and even order blood tests where necessary. Note that a deficiency of vitamin D and thyroid problems may trigger depression symptoms in some cases. Do not underrate the symptoms and if your mood fails to get better, promptly seek medical attention. Untreated depression is associated with severe complications such as self-harm, suicidal thoughts, social isolation, relationship challenges, panic attacks, substance abuse, physical pain, and weight loss or gain.
Causes and Risk Factors of Clinical Depression
Several factors may cause clinical depression among men and women. Some of the risk factors include:
Genetics and Family History
If any of your family members suffers or had suffered mood disorders or depression, you are at risk of getting depression as a disorder. Studies estimate that about 40% of depressive illnesses are genetically determined. Although it is still unclear the exact genes that play a role in mood disorders and depression, researchers are convinced that different genes have a role to play. Note that no single cause of depression acts alone. Researchers believe that both environmental and genetic factors combine and are vital in causing depression.
It is normal to be emotionally low at given times as it resolves with time. However, for the depressed, periods of being low emotionally do not disappear quickly. Individuals with depressive disorders tend to abuse alcohol and drugs. Alcohol is a depressant in the central nervous system, and when used, it exacerbates depressive symptoms such as hopelessness, sadness, and lethargy.
Surprisingly, most depressed people reach for alcohol or drugs to lift their spirits or numb painful thoughts. The outcome is that addiction and depression feed into each other and worsens. Clinical depression is associated with high risks of suicide, self-harm, and accidental injury.
Depression compromises your immune system and weakens your body, making you more prone to chronic and physical illnesses. Note that there are also prescription drugs known to amplify depression. Such drugs include beta blockers, corticosteroids, benzodiazepines, stimulants, statins, and anti-convulsants.
Stress is good because it keeps us primed, motivated, and alert to respond to danger. As anyone with a task deadline approaching, stress mobilizes the human body to act accordingly, improving performance. However, excessive stress may cause severe depression in individuals who are at risk. Both acute and chronic stress are essential contributors to depression development because they cause over-stimulation of the stress-response mechanism.
Stressful situations can result in the overproduction of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. At the same time, it suppresses serotonin and other neurotransmitters such as dopamine which plays a crucial role in depression. When the chemical systems operate, they regulate several biological processes such as sex drive, energy, appetite, and sleep. Besides, they allow for the expression of emotions and mood.
After a challenging situation, the stress response is expected to reset and shut off. If the stress response fails to shut off, depression may set in. No one escapes stress because it may originate from several factors, including natural disasters, divorce, loss of a job, and loss of a loved one.
It is normal and healthy to grieve after a loss of a loved one. Grieving individuals may lose pleasure in several activities, experience poor appetite, and insomnia. These symptoms should subside with time. However, persistent grieving may land one into depression.
Diet is a crucial part of mental health. Recent studies reveal that a diet comprising of antioxidants, low-fat dairy, olive oil, fish, whole grain, vegetables, and fruits significantly reduced symptoms of clinical depression. Individuals who excessively consume processed foods are at increased risk of depression.
The study carried out in 2014 revealed that a balanced diet full of nutrients and vegetables is vital for one’s well being. Several inequalities also play a role in the development of mental disorders like depression. In influencing mental health, these factors have complex interactions.
Other external factors commonly associated with mental health disorders include poverty, living in disadvantaged communities, or poor physical fitness. Researchers believe that the inequalities have a complex interaction with poor nutrition.
Disturbances in the Circadian Rhythm
Interruption of the circadian rhythm is common among depressed individuals. Although the changes are considered contributing factors to depression, it is also possible that depression may be the cause. Several symptoms are associated with a disturbed circadian rhythm, and the most obvious is the change in the sleep pattern. A strong interaction exists between circadian processes and major depressive disorders. Depression symptoms exhibit diurnal variation.
The depressed individuals may report severe symptoms either in the morning or evening. With major depressive disorders, severe symptoms are common in the morning. Alteration in the sleep-wake cycle, hormone rhythms, social rhythms, and rhythms in body temperature are observed in patients with major depressive disorders. Studies indicate that the extent of major depressive disorder is directly linked with the degree of circadian rhythm alignment.
Female Sex Hormones
Women admit that they experience more depression than men. The gender disparity could be explained by factors such as hormonal, biological, and social factors unique to females.
During the menstrual cycle, there are hormonal fluctuations that may cause pre-menstrual syndrome symptoms. The symptoms include emotional reactivity, fatigue, irritability, and bloating.
In some females, the symptoms may be so disabling and severe, warranting pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder diagnosis. PMDD is associated with irritability, depression, and several other mood disturbances from ten to 14 days before the period.
Hormonal changes in pregnancy are risk factors for depression, especially in women at risk. Other factors related to pregnancy like infertility, unwanted pregnancy, and miscarriage may also lead to depression.
After delivery, some mothers may experience ‘baby blues.’ It is a normal reaction that should disappear after few weeks. However, some women experience chronic lasting depression known as post-partum depression, and it is influenced by hormonal fluctuations.
Menopause and Perimenopause
During perimenopause, there is a high fluctuation of hormones as the body prepares to get into menopause. Women in this stage are at increased risk of depression. Moreover, it gets worse for women who have a history of depressive illness.
Studies also reveal that women release more stress hormones than men. Progesterone hormone predominant in females prevents cortisol from turning off itself as required. The outcome is that women will be at increased risk of developing stress-induced depression.
Effects of Depression on Physical Health
Depression can influence an individual’s physical health in several ways, including weight gain or weight loss. Depressed individuals report appetite variation, which directly affects whether you will lose or gain weight. Medical experts relate excess weight gain to various conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
On the other hand, being overweight may cause fatigue, disrupt fertility, and harm your heart. Depression can also lower your motivation to make positive lifestyle changes. The risk of heart diseases increases when you adopt a sedentary lifestyle and take an inappropriate diet. Studies reveal that one out of five individuals suffering from coronary artery diseases or heart failure suffer from depression, making it an independent risk factor.
Exacerbating Health Condition
Individuals with underlying chronic conditions experience a worsening of the symptoms as they develop depression. Despite the already stressful or isolating chronic illness, depression will worsen the feeling. According to studies, most depressed individuals fail to comply with their underlying chronic conditions’ treatment plans, leading to worsening symptoms. It would be best if individuals with both depression chronic conditions spoke to their physicians for assistance. Protecting mental health will directly improve chronic diseases and physical health.
Sexual Health Challenge
Clinical depression will influence every aspect of your life, and sex life is not spared. Depression can directly lower your sex drive. Besides, even antidepressants may lower the libido. Depressed individuals have a challenge initiating and enjoying sex. Low libido psychologically impacts an individual’s ability to be aroused, maintain an erection in men, and reach orgasm. Researchers claim that the touch sensation is vital in sexual health.
However, individuals with depression tend to be less mindful of various sensations. The negative feelings and thoughts when depressed prevent your body from responding accordingly. Sexual dysfunction creates a sense of worthlessness or low self-esteem, with the outcome being less sexual enjoyment for the partners and worsening of the symptoms of depression.
The specialists highly recommend the inclusion of your partner in psychotherapy. Partners who freely talk about sexual dysfunction and solve problems reduce the pressure that a given individual may feel. Moral support and understanding may provide room for improvement because the situation will get less stressful.
On the other hand, if you experience low libido and feel pressured by your partner or have more expectations concerning the performance, it can be challenging. It would be best if partners became open to one another and talked candidly about the challenges. While comfortable, you will discuss the emotional and physical barriers to a better sex life.
Although antidepressants are effective against depression, some are associated with anorgasmia, delayed ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, and low libido. Patients on antidepressants who experience the above side effects should promptly reach out to their physicians to recommend an alternative medication with less impact on sexual health. Apart from the drugs, the physician will also determine if there are other co-occurring conditions such as low testosterone and contraceptives that could influence sexual function.
Depressed individuals often experience gastrointestinal challenges such as constipation, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Some depressed patients experience irritable bowel syndrome. According to research carried out in 2016, the GIT symptoms are experienced because depression alters how the brain responds to stress by suppressing operations in the hypothalamus, adrenal, and pituitary glands.
It is challenging to live with depression. However, various treatments can boost the quality of life. In some patients, one form of therapy is effective in managing their conditions. For others, effective treatment requires a combination of treatments. The most suitable treatment will be determined by your physician based on your situation and symptoms. Some physicians prefer combining lifestyle therapies with medical treatments.
The standard combination therapy comprises anxiolytics, antipsychotics, and antidepressants. Classes of antidepressants include atypical, tricyclic, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and others. Each category of antidepressant acts on different neurotransmitters or combinations of neurotransmitters.
Anxiolytics are particularly effective when depression and anxiety are co-occurring. Studies reveal that about 70% of depressive disorders are associated with anxiety. Although the etiology of the two could be different, they share some symptoms. The symptoms include insomnia, difficulty in concentrating, and irritability. If you experience the above symptoms, promptly reach out to your physician for assistance.
These are prescription medications and should be taken as prescribed by the physician. Note that it may take some time before significant improvement is noticed, but with non-adherence, there will be failure in therapy. It is also advisable to complete the dosage as recommended by the physicians. Individuals who stop the medication after realizing improvement are at significant risk of relapse.
While taking selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, patients may realize symptoms such as sexual dysfunction, rash, weight loss, low blood sugar, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea. Discuss with your physician any unusual symptoms you realize while on the medications. There are antidepressants associated with increased suicidal thoughts among adults, teenagers, and even children.
There are herbal remedies effective in managing mild and moderate depression. However, the products may not be so effective and safe because FDA does not monitor them. Some popular plants used in managing depression include lavender, chamomile, ginseng, and St. John’s Wort. St. John’s wort is inappropriate for individuals with bipolar disorder as a co-occurring condition. Lavender is effective against insomnia and anxiety.
Before using these herbal products, it is advisable to talk to your physician because some are toxic. Besides, there could be an interaction between these herbal products and the antidepressant medications. Some supplements are effective against mild to moderate depression. Examples include 5-hydroxytryptophan and S-adenosyl methionine. Hydroxytryptophan boosts serotonin neurotransmitters in your brain, which is responsible for an individual’s mood.
Patients may also consider omega-3-fatty acids, which are vital in brain health and proper neurological development. Adding omega-3 supplements reduces symptoms associated with depression. Inhaling essential oils such as wild ginger and bergamot have also proved to boost serotonin levels in the brain. Vitamin B6 and B12 are particularly crucial for brain health. With reduced vitamin B12 in the body, an individual is at high risk of developing depression.
For holistic management of depression, psychological therapies are crucial. The programs include problem-solving, interpersonal, and cognitive-behavioral therapies. Some specialists may recommend psychotherapy as the first line in the management of clinical depression. Other patients have better responses when there is a combination of medications and psychotherapy. The CBT sessions could be over the phone, individually with the specialists, or in groups.
Studies suggest that regular exercise may boost serotonin levels in the brain. Because the hormone regulates appetite, sleep, mood, and sleep, there will be an improvement in these functions. Exercise also boosts the concentration of endorphins which lifts mood. Regular exercise will:
- Increase a sense of control and boosts self-esteem because it enables patients to take control of their conditions
- Reduce loneliness and provide social support when carried out in a group
- Improve sleep
- Increase energy levels
Studies reveal that frequent exercise is particularly effective against non-melancholic depression, especially to individuals who were inactive or had a sedentary lifestyle. Note that the activity does not have to be strenuous. Just a daily brisk walk is beneficial. For chronic melancholic depression, exercise is only effective when combined with psychological or medication therapies.
Apart from depression management, regular exercise has proved to be beneficial in physical health. The benefits include the prevention of stroke, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and other cardiovascular conditions.
Brain Stimulation Therapy
Continuous transcranial magnetic stimulation will send magnetic pulses to your brain, which is vital in managing major depression. For depression unresponsive to drug therapy, the individual may benefit from electro-convulsive treatment. It is the most suitable management, especially when psychosis co-occurs with depression.
The interrelation between stress and depression is circular and complex. Stressed individuals assume healthy lifestyle habits. They ignore physical activities, drink and smoke excessively. Behaviors resulting from stress are risk factors for major depression. Losing your income source will lower your self-esteem and lead to detachment from the social contacts that protect against depression.
For individuals with major clinical depression, it is not the right time for lifestyle modification. However, you can protect against early episodes of depression or depression re-occurrence by embracing lifestyle modifications that influence stress response. It is necessary to build resilience, especially if you have chronic stress resulting from factors like unemployment.
Managing clinical depression entails getting the right combination of therapies and medications. If a given treatment fails, share with your doctor an alternative plan to get rid of depression and live a happy life. If you or your loved one is battling with depression, do not hesitate to reach out to Level Up Treatment Center. We will assist you and walk with you through the journey of overcoming depression.
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