This is the first of a two-part series on depression. In this issue, I will explore what depression is and what causes it. In the next issue, I will describe how depression is treated and prevented. If you or someone close to you suffers from depression, it is important to educate yourself about it and seek treatment from qualified mental health professionals.
Depression is a serious illness, not a harmless part of life. It is a complex disorder with a variety of causes. It is never caused by just one thing. It may be the result of a mix of factors, including genetic, chemical, physical, and sociological. It is also influenced by behavior patterns learned in the family and by cognitive distortions.
Depression affects millions of people in this country. It is always troubling, and for some people it can be disabling. Depression is more than just sadness or “the blues.” It can have an impact on nearly every aspect of a person’s life. People who suffer from depression may experience despair and worthlessness, and this can have an enormous impact on both personal and professional relationships. In this newsletter, I will describe many of the factors that may cause depression, and I will explore strategies for preventing it.
When a person suffers from depression, it can affect every part of his or her life, including one’s physical body, one’s behavior, thought processes, mood, ability to relate to others, and general lifestyle.
People who are diagnosed with clinical depression have a combination of symptoms from the following list:
When a person is suffering from depression, these symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. This means that the person’s family and social relationships, as well as work life, are impaired.
When a person is suffering from depression, symptoms such as these are not the result of a chronic psychotic disorder, substance abuse, general medical condition, or bereavement.
Depression may include feelings of sadness, but it is not the same as sadness. Depression lasts much longer than sadness. While depression involves a loss of self-esteem, grief, disappointment and sadness do not. People who are depressed function less productively. People who are sad or disappointed continue to function.
Depression does not seem to be related to ethnicity, education, income, or marital status. It strikes slightly more women than men. Some researchers believe that depression strikes more often in women who have a history of emotional and sexual abuse, economic deprivation, or are dependent on others. There seems to be a genetic link; depression is more common among parents, children, and siblings of people who are diagnosed with depression. The average age at the onset of a depressive episode is the mid-20s. People born more recently are being diagnosed at a younger age.
Many physicians believe that depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. They often prescribe antidepressant medication, and many people find relief as a result. However, there is no reliable test to identify such a chemical imbalance. It is unknown whether life experiences cause mood changes, which create changes in brain chemistry, or whether it works in reverse.
Depression may be associated with physical events such as other diseases, physical trauma, and hormonal changes. A person who is depressed should always have a physical examination as part of the assessment process to determine the role of physical causes.
If you or someone you know is depressed and exhibits any of the following signs, it is extremely important to seek the assistance of a medical or mental health professional.
In my next newsletter, I will discuss the treatment and prevention of depression.
Please pass this newsletter along to a friend. Or call 562-8045 to request additional copies.
Michael MacMunn is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor in Westfield. Call 562-8045 for a consultation.
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