Understanding depression


According to WHO (World Health Organization), in 2013 there were 615 million people suffering from anxiety and depression and depression is thought to be the second highest cause of disease burden in middle-income countries by 2030.

We can indeed see it around us in people on the street, sometimes in the ones close to us, or even within ourselves, with a functional impact on social, professional and/or familial environment. Sometimes it is easy to spot, but other times it is masked artistically. 

But what is depression? 

Depression is part of the affective disorders and it can be caused by:

  • Biological factors such as disturbance at neurotransmitters level, genetic factors or chemical imbalance;
  • Environmental factors: abuse, neglect, bullying, alcoholism in the family, trauma, poor social network;
  • Negative life events: loss of a loved one, dismissal from job, divorce;
  • Lifestyle: retirement, “empty nest” syndrome, financial struggles, lack of fulfillment
  • Cognitive factors: low self-esteem, distortions, perfectionism, etc.

Clinically, there are several classifications of depressive disorders:  major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, dysthymic disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, postpartum (peripartum) depression.

Depression is more than feeling sad. It is often characterized also by frequent crying, guilt or inutility feelings, irritability, mental tension, incapacity to enjoy normal or otherwise pleasant activities, selective mutism, low energy, withdrawal tendency, significant time spent in bed or couch, lack of concentration, difficult sleep (insomnia or hypersomnia), low appetite, low or inexistent sexual drive, death thoughts, etc. For a diagnosis, specific symptoms must last at least two weeks and must represent a change in the previous level of functioning.

It is also important to rule out through medical checks other medical conditions that can overlap the same symptoms (e.g. vitamin deficiency, endocrine disorders, etc).

The depressive person feels powerless, insecure, restless, has slow movements, worried, stiff-faced pronounced expression. The feelings of helplessness, sadness, discouragement, abandonment, loneliness and guilt become overwhelming. Sometimes it can seem there are no feelings and the condition of numbness is generalized. From physiological point of view, the depressed person can present headaches, stomach aches, digestive disorders, creating a disturbing somatic frame. The fear of failure becomes signature thought which keeps the person fixated in avoidance patterns and abstraction from responsibilities. 

Can it be cured? 

Yes, depression is treatable. After evaluation and assessment of a specialist, there are several forms of treatment, according to the severity of the depression. Medication and/or psychotherapy or counselling are the most significant resorts. It is also important that lifestyle routine is changed by doing sport, increasing the interpersonal connections, healthy nutrition and balanced sleep. Cognitive behavioral techniques can address the issues regarding low self-esteem and self-valuation, reducing the feeling of insecurity, generate techniques of emotion and stress management and also develop adaptative and positive behaviors.