Depression affects almost everyone at least sometime, it may be an after effect of an illness such as Flu, many new mothers suffer post natal depression, many go down during the winter months, whist most people will suffer a reaction to a bad event such a the death of a loved one and many other events that life may through at us. Happily for most these type of depressions lift with time or at the very least with a bit of self help. However a minority need a helping hand such as using anti depressant medication. A further minority go on to develop a longer term depressive illness such as Dysthymia or Bipolar illness.
Exactly is Depression?
When we suffer depression we have the symptoms listed in the box to the left and given in detail towards the bottom of this page. But what happens in the brain? The photo at the left shows part of a brain cell. The arrow points to the bottom of the cell called the synaptic bulb. To give an illustration a brain sell is very much like a tree, the synaptic bulb is like the roots. At the other end what would be the branches of a tree are called the dendrites The dendrites of one cell receive messages from the synaptic bulb of another cell. When the many dendrites of an individual cell receive enough messages from other cell the cell fires off an electrical charge down what is called the Axon which connects the dendrites with the synaptic bulb in a similar way that the trunk of a tree separates the branches and the root.
Once the charge reaches the synaptic bulb a number of changes, it causes tiny globules (synaptic vesicles), each holding thousands of neurotransmitter molecules, which are within the bulb, to fuse with the
bulb’s surface and release many different chemicals across a gap called the synapse. To be picked up by the dendrites of another cell.
In Depression some of these chemicals do not make it across the gap incited they turn back to re uptaken (return to) the synaptic bulb. Thus because these are not getting to a new cell, the firing off process takes that bit longer thus the brain processes slow down, the deeper the depression the more neurotransmitters fail to cross the gap the slower the brain processes become.
What Causes Depression?
Sometimes depression comes on for no apparent reason, however in most instances there is a 'known' cause. The first main reason is illness, Flu is perhaps the most well known, meningitis can encephalitis can both be highly likely to cause depression. However nearly every major illness, such as stroke, heart attack, cancer etc and any chronic (long term) illness can in a lot of instances make a sufferer depressed.
Another major factor in depression is stress. The box on the right has 15 leading forms of stress, perhaps the one everyone expects in that in first place, death of spouse, but looking down the list there are some events that may be surprising, marriage for example can be a happy event, getting married can also be very stressful, with organizing the wedding day, not to mention the major change in your life.
Hormones can play a part in depression as in the instance of post natal depression which a good part of new mother suffer.
Events can play a major part, from ongoing situation such as debt or a difficult marriage, then there is war, how many residents of British cities during the blitz in autumn 1940 with the anxiety of would there home be there next day of even themselves or there families not seeing the day out would not have suffered depression, of the Jews in the ghettos or concentration camps and that is just one war.
We have just scratched the surface here there are many more causes of depression that would fill many books.
Do I suffer from Depression?
Below here we give the official definitions of depression, however if you are suffering from depression you may want to go to our help pages for both professional and self help.
15 Most Stressful Events
1 Death of spouse
3 Marital separation
4 Jail term
5 Death of close family member
6 Personal injury or illness
8 Fired at work
9 Marital reconciliation
11 Change in health of family member
13 Sex difficulties
14 Gain of new family member
15 Business readjustment
Never Self Diagnose alway Seek Professional Diagnosis
Depression has a number of symptoms the symptoms further down this page we give two professional definitions before those we pick out 3 of the primary symptoms:-
- Lack of concentration, you may find work, reading, driving and other activities requiring concentration becoming more difficult, in servers causes almost impossible.
- Loss of interest in usual even once enjoyable activities, hobbies etc. can become harder, like become mundane difficult to cope with.
- Anxiety often precedes or goes hand in hand with depression, particularly if you find yourself anxious over things you never used to be or have a stressful event along with anxiety.
- The above 3 often accompanied by a change in Sleep patterns can mean you may be suffering from Depression, however self diagnosis can be dangerous as these can be symptoms of other complaints, you need to see your GP to give. a proper diagnosis
Symptoms as given by the respected Merck Manual are:-
A person who is withdrawn, speaks little, stops eating, and sleeps little is experiencing what doctors call vegetative symptoms. In contrast, a person who appears anxious and fearful (especially in the evening), has an increased appetite resulting in weight gain, and, although initially unable to sleep, sleeps for increasingly longer periods is experiencing depression with atypical symptoms. A person who, in addition, is very restless—wringing the hands and talking continuously—is experiencing agitation.
Many people with depression cannot experience emotions—including grief, joy, and pleasure—in a normal way; in the extreme, the world appears to have become colorless and lifeless. Thinking, speech, and general activity may slow down so much that all voluntary activities stop. Depressed people may be preoccupied with intense feelings of guilt and self-denigration and may not be able to concentrate. They may experience feelings of despair, loneliness, and low self-esteem. They are often indecisive and withdrawn, feel progressively helpless and hopeless, and think about death and suicide.
Sleep problems are common. Most depressed people have difficulty falling asleep and awaken repeatedly, particularly early in the morning. A loss of sexual desire or pleasure is common. Poor appetite and weight loss sometimes lead to emaciation, and in women, menstrual periods may stop. However, overeating and weight gain are common in people with mild depression.
In some depressed people, the symptoms are mild but the disorder lasts for years, often decades. This type of depression, called dysthymia, often begins early in life and is associated with distinct changes in personality. People with dysthymia are gloomy, pessimistic, humorless, or incapable of having fun; passive and lethargic; introverted; skeptical, hypercritical, or constantly complaining; and self-critical and full of self-reproach. They are preoccupied with inadequacy, failure, and negative events, sometimes to the point of morbid enjoyment of their own failures.
Some depressed people complain of having a physical illness, with various aches and pains or fears of calamity or of becoming insane. Others think they have illnesses they believe to be incurable or shameful, such as cancer or sexually transmitted diseases, and think they are infecting other people.
About 15% of depressed people, most commonly those with severe depression, have false beliefs (delusions), or they see or hear things that are not there (hallucinations). For example, they may believe that they have committed unpardonable sins or crimes or may hear voices accusing them of various misdeeds or condemning them to death. In rare cases, they may imagine that they see coffins or deceased relatives. Feelings of insecurity and worthlessness may lead people with severe depression to believe that they are being watched and persecuted. Depression with delusions or hallucinations is termed psychotic depression.
Officially the symptoms of Depression as defined in DSM-IV ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders )
Depression, which affects people of all ages, income, race, and cultures, is a disturbance of mood and is characterized by a loss of interest or pleasure in normal everyday activities. People who are depressed may feel "down in the dumps" for weeks, months, or even years at a time.
In the same 2 weeks, the patient has had 5 or more of the following symptoms, which are a definite change from usual functioning. Either depressed mood or decreased interest or pleasure must be one of the five:
Mood. For most of nearly every day, the patient reports depressed mood or appears depressed to others.
Interests. For most of nearly every day, interest or pleasure is markedly decreased in nearly all activities (noted by the patient or by others).
Eating and weight. Although not dieting, there is a marked loss or gain of weight (such as five percent in one month) or appetite is markedly decreased or increased nearly every day.
Sleep. Nearly every day the patient sleeps excessively or not enough.
Motor activity. Nearly every day others can see that the patient's activity is agitated or retarded.
Fatigue. Nearly every day there is fatigue or loss of energy.
Self-worth. Nearly every day the patient feels worthless or inappropriately guilty. These feelings are not just about being sick; they may be delusional.
Concentration. Noted by the patient or by others, nearly every day the patient is indecisive or has trouble thinking or concentrating.
Death. The patient has had repeated thoughts about death (other than the fear of dying), suicide (with or without a plan) or has made a suicide attempt
These symptoms cause clinically important distress or impair work, social or personal functioning.
If your moods are constantly changing or you switch from very happy to very depressed you may be suffering from Bipolar Disorder more information on this can be found on the mdf website.
Never Self Diagnose alway Seek Professional Diagnosis