Clinical depression (also called depressive disorder) is an illness, which affects mood, thoughts and the whole body, causing the intense feelings of deep sadness, despair, frustration, melancholy, hopelessness, and helplessness. These feelings are aggravated by changes in such physical patterns as sleeping and eating. Besides, depression also involves changes in the usual behaviour manifesting themselves in constant negative thinking and overwhelming pessimism.
A diagnosis of clinical depression is made if the symptoms last for not less than two weeks. Therefore, the illness needing medical treatment differs significantly from the short-term feelings of sadness or despair, which are the normal reaction to stress and unpleasant events.
In case of clinical depression symptoms can last for months and years, especially, if they are left untreated. They may grow so intense that will become the reason of disability, interfering with the usual daily activities, social functioning, and family life. They may also be life-threatening, causing a person to commit suicide.
Statistically, people in poverty, married women, unmarried men, and elderly are the most prone to depression.
There are several different types of clinical depression, such as Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Depression, Seasonal Depression, Atypical Depression, Dysthymia, Postpartum Depression, Premenstrual Dysphoria, etc. The most common types though are Major Depression and Atypical Depression.
Depending on the individual, symptoms may vary from mild to severe. They tend to worsen over time, if the disorder remains untreated.
Psychological changes: - feelings of guilt, fear, hopelessness, sadness, anxiousness, emptiness, helplessness, worthlessness, pessimism, apathy; - loss of interest and pleasure in everyday activities, hobbies, and life in general; - thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts; - restlessness, irritability, aggressiveness (especially characteristic to Bipolar Depression); - mood swings from very agitated and elevated to melancholy and apathy (Bipolar Depression); - low self-esteem and loss of self-confidence.
Physical changes: - decreased energy, fatigue, tiredness; - insomnia or sleepiness; - appetite changes, weight loss or weight gain; - difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions; - increased energy, talkativeness, excessive elation and emotions during Bipolar Depression.
Besides all mentioned above, a depressed person may also suffer from other physical symptoms (headaches, digestive disorders, chronic pain, etc.) that do not respond to any treatment and seem to have no reason.
Changes in behavior, social withdrawal or, on the contrary, excessive talkativeness, sometimes excessive crying, complaining about everything are very common for the depressed. In general, person’s whole perception of the world and his or her own realization undergoes dramatic changes, negatively affecting the life not only of a depressed individual, but those who surround him or her as well.
Heredity is believed to be one of the most common causes of depression (estimated 70 % of Major Depression cases are claimed to be heritable). However, not all the people, who have family history of this disease, suffer from it.
Psychological predisposition is said to be another cause of depression; therefore, people with low self-esteem and lack of self confidence, as well as those who view the world with pessimism are prone to this disease.
Environmental factors as medical conditions, stresses, dramatic life experiences, dieting, living with a depressed person, substance abuse and other patterns can lead to the development of depression as well. In many cases, however, a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors is claimed to be the reason for experiencing a depressive disorder.
Physiologically this disorder is explained by the imbalances in chemicals that transmit information in the brain, called neurotransmitters. Serotonin and noradrenalin levels play the key role here.
Today medicine offers a wide range of treatment options to fight depression. The disease is effectively treated if a person seeks for the appropriate help timely. Up to 80% of sufferers feel significant improvement of their mood. Since there exist many different drugs to help relieve depression symptoms, they are chosen individually according to the type and severity of the disease.
The most effective and the most often prescribed and used medications, known today, are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft). They have quite a low rate of side effects. Though drowsiness, dry mouth, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, decreased appetite, and decreased libido may occur, these adverse reactions tend to subside with time, when organism gets used to the drug.
Tricyclic antidepressants are the oldest drugs against depression. They effectively treat severe cases of the disorder; but their weak-point is a great number of side effects (drowsiness, constipation, urinary retention, blurred vision, dizziness, confusion, and sexual dysfunction). Their overdose can be lethal, that is why it is a must to follow the doctor's instructions while taking them.
Besides a great number of drugs, depression can also be overwhelmed with the help of psychotherapy, electroconvulsive and light therapies, counseling, self-help groups, and meditation or by combining some types of therapies.
Herbal therapy is one more effective method to get rid or at least lessen the symptoms of depression. The use of certain herbs is beneficial for those who cannot or do not want to undergo medical treatment because of multiple adverse reactions drugs usually cause. Herbal treatment, on the contrary, is characterized with the lower rate of side effects, offering at the same time significant improvement of the psychological state.
St. John's Wort is one of the most often used herbs against depression. It is suggested to work the same way antidepressant drugs fight this psychological disorder. St. John's Wort is a good treatment option if depression is combined with tension and exhaustion.
Noni, often called Morinda, and Schisandra are also powerful natural antidepressants.
Ginkgo Biloba is recommended for older people undergoing medical treatment to regulate blood pressure.
Kava Kava is beneficial for people suffering from depression aggravated with anxiety disorder.
Lemon Balm helps eliminate digestive disorders, which are believed to be caused by depression or stress.
Rhodiola improves mood and fights depressive disorder by normalizing serotonin and dopamine levels.
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