Depression or Major Depressive Disorder is a type of mood disorder in which a person may experience feelings of sadness or loss of interest in the things one found pleasure in or both. It is the most common mental disorder experienced by more than 264 million people worldwide.
Depression can often be confused with feelings of sadness or grief but both are two different things. Traumatic life events like the death of a loved one, breaking up from a relationship, losing a job, surviving a natural disaster can lead to feelings of sadness but they are generally short-lived.
Difference between Sadness and Depression
- Sadness or grief results from a traumatic event but it is not the only feeling a person may experience. A person may occasionally encounter some happy memories or happy feelings apart from being sad. In the case of depression, the person is sad most of the time. The feelings of sadness and loss of interest have to stay at least two weeks for it to be classified as depression.
- Feelings of self-harm or suicide usually do not creep in when a person is experiencing sadness. Even if it does, it generally revolves around the idea of uniting with the loved one who died or from not being able to fulfil one’s responsibility towards his/her family. In case of depression, a person may want to commit self-harm or suicide because of one’s inability to cope up with the prolonged sadness or because of feelings of worthlessness. When depressed, a person thinks that he/she is worthless and hence, does not deserve to live which might lead to self-harm.
- When a person is sad from a traumatic incident, generally he/she would not feel worthless. Self-esteem and self-worth take a toll when a person is depressed. Self-loathing is also one of the symptoms of depression.
Symptoms of depression
A person may experience a range of physical and mental symptoms when in depression and a variety of negative emotions apart from sadness. A person is in depression if he/she experiences five of the below-mentioned symptoms for over a period of two weeks. The common symptoms of depression are:
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Being irritable, anxious, restless, aggressive or moody
- Loss of interest in favourite activities
- Loss of appetite or emotional eating
- Weight loss or gain
- Reduced sexual desire or performance
- Disturbed sleep patterns like sleeping a lot or sleeping too less
- Problem concentrating, making decisions or completing routine activities
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing, hopelessness and guilt
- Self-harm or thoughts of suicide
Symptoms of depression should not be ignored because if unattended, it can even worsen the symptoms and intensify the sadness, taking a toll on the person’s life.
Causes of depression
- Genetic: If a person had a family history of depression, he/she is likely or at least at a greater risk of developing the disorder some time in his/her life.
- Traumatic events: Major traumatic events or traumatic events taking place in a person’s childhood can trigger depression and can send a person into a spiral of negative feelings.
- Brain structure: Less activity in a person’s frontal lobe of the brain can put a person at a greater risk of depression.
- Existing medical conditions: A person may go into depression after suffering from chronic illnesses, other mental disorders or medical conditions.
- The chemical activity of the brain: Change in the chemical activity of the brain can lead to feelings that one experiences in depression. Changes in the brain’s neurotransmitter levels can also trigger symptoms of depression.
- Personality traits: Low self-esteem and low self-worth in individuals can make them vulnerable to depression. People who suffer from stress often, who are self-critical, who are pessimistic in nature and indulge in self-loathing behaviours are also easily susceptible to depression.
- Medications: Certain medications or medicines can lead to symptoms of depression as a side-effect.
- Socio-economic, psychological, environmental factors: Factors affecting a person’s daily life can play an important role in determining whether the person will suffer from depression or not. If a person is financially weak, has poor social relations, or lives in a violent or abusive environment, he/she may go into depression.
Depression has a range of symptoms and can be caused due to a variety of factors, but it is treatable. If you face any of the symptoms of depression, do not ignore them and try to reach out for help. Reaching out to a doctor in time can help minimise the negative effects it will have on you and can change the way you lead your life. It can overall make a person happier and restore one’s will to live a purposeful life. All that matters is to break the stigma around depression and reach out for help to make our lives better.