Depression — Types, Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, Tests, And Treatment

Depression is not insanity. If extreme depression is left untreated, it can become manic, but always remember that depression is a mental disorder. It can be confused with plain sadness, and some of its symptoms can be confused with those of other illnesses in the elderly. Further, it should not be considered synonymous with pessimism, or general gloominess. It is not unique to any age, sex, religion, or race. Depression can affect anyone across the board.

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Therefore, it is important to understand how many types of depression there are; how to identify if a loved one is suffering from it; what might have caused it; and how to get it treated. It is useful to understand how far it can be prevented; and what tests are administered to identify the borderline cases. The patient needs sensitive handling, and encouragement to overcome the issue. While a modicum of grief is natural after losing a loved one, or major professional and relationship changes; it is time to seek professional help when such grief is over the top.

Know the Different Kinds of Depression

Broadly, there are three kinds of depression. There is situational depression; i.e. depression which has been sparked by a self-limiting situation. In such an instance the depression could last from a few hours to a few days or even a week or two; which vanishes as the circumstances which caused its occurrence to diminish. Normally, it doesn’t require any medical intervention. The second is dysthymia; i.e. low intensity, chronic depression. It requires a combination of counseling and medication. The third is manic depression; high-intensity depression with suicidal thoughts. This requires complex treatment.

How Will You Know Whether You, a Close Friend, or Other Loved One Is Suffering?

Depression is easy enough to identify. The symptoms could range from any or a combination of the following:

  • sudden decreased attention span;
  • overwhelming lethargy, which isn’t sparked by malaise after a viral infection;
  • a lack of appetite, or hunger without appetite;
  • sleeplessness;
  • being morose in situations which don’t justify it;
  • feelings of guilt without justification;
  • lack of confidence or self-doubt;
  • difficulty in decision making, especially in people who are normally decisive;
  • sudden weight loss or gain;
  • mood swings, especially irritability, and impatience;
  • excessive pessimism;
  • anxiety;
  • loss of interest in social activities;
  • aches and pains which don’t respond to treatment;
  • loss of sexual desire;
  • feeling of worthlessness, or isolation especially in the elderly;
  • drug or alcohol abuse.

What Sparked It?

Any of numerous events could set off a depressive phase. Bereavement; separation from loved ones; relationship difficulties like a broken marriage; professional crisis like loss of employment; business losses; onset of a major illness; physical disfigurement caused by an accident, fire, physical assault, or due to disease; geographic relocation; and even childbirth could cause depression.

Is It Preventable?
Some life events like bereavement are not preventable. While post-partum depression is often caused by the way the mother’s life gets thrown into disarray; the physical cause is the drastic reduction in estrogen and progesterone in the body. Further, the extreme stress of continually being alert to the needs of the bundle of joy is compounded by exhaustion and reduced hormonal production by the thyroid gland. However, allowing family elders to feel isolated, unworthy, or uncared for is avoidable.

Tests to Identify Borderline Cases

Certain psychometric tests are given to people who have been identified in the high-risk zone. If either or both parents suffered from depression or some major personality disorder, then morbidity tests show that around 25 percent of children display clinical depression.

The Way Forward

It is vital to seek professional advice before trying out home remedies. Only a qualified psychiatrist would be able to distinguish among the three broad kinds of depression. Further, if there are other physical conditions which could be complicating the matter, that needs to be identified and addressed accordingly. Any line of treatment — psychotherapy, medication, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), or a combination — needs to be based on clinical analysis, and sound clinical judgment.

Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors