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Health Matters

What is Depression?

Manuel Guerreiro (Psychiatrist) . 10/09/2015

Depression is a mood disorder that has been present in humans throughout history. A series of evidence shows chemical alterations in the brain of a depressed person, especially affecting neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine). These substances are responsible for the transmission of nervous impulses between cells. Other processes are also affected in this condition.

Psychological and social factors may be consequence but also cause of depression. Stress may induce depression in persons with predisposition for depression, most probably of genetic origin. The prevalence (number of cases in a certain population) of depression is estimated to be around 19%. This means that 1 out of every 5 persons in the world develops this condition at some stage of their life.

Below are some symptoms of depression:

  • Depressed mood or irritability, anxiety and distress

  • Discouragement, fatigue, taking too much effort to do simple things

  • Difficulty or inability to feel joy or pleasure in activities previously considered pleasant

  • Indifference, lack of motivation, apathy

  • Lack of willingness, constant hesitation

  • Feelings of fear, insecurity, desperation, despair, abandonment and emptiness

  • Pessimism, frequent and disproportionate guilt feelings, low self-esteem, feelings of meaninglessness for life, uselessness, failure, sickness or death.

  • Wishing to die or trying to commit suicide

  • Distorted and negative interpretation of reality: all is seen from the depressive perspective, a “greyish” shade over you, others, the world in general

  • Concentration problems, slow wittedness, difficulty in making decisions

  • Changes in sexual function and libido

  • Loss or increase of appetite or weight

  • Insomnia, early morning awakening or, less frequently, excessive sleepiness

  • Pain and other physical symptoms unrelated to medical issues (gripe pain, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhoea, constipation, flatulence, heavy body feeling, chest pressure, amongst others)

Depression Treatment

The first step for fighting this disease is its acknowledgement, recognizing symptoms and signs. Should this happen, a person should get information on this condition and contact their regular health care provider or a psychiatrist, exposing the identified lasting symptoms. Treatment for depression is essentially medication-based. There are many available antidepressants. Unlike many people think, these medications are not drugs that leave the person euphoric and create addiction. Therapy is simple and, in a general way, does not incapacitate or excessively slow down the patient.

The patient needs to be aware that depression is a treatable disease and that complying with prescribed treatment will give you back your life, since symptoms will start to vanish. However, it also important to bear in mind that for the first weeks of treatment you will feel side effects of the medication and that it may take 2 to 4 weeks for the beneficial effect to develop.

Psychotherapies are very helpful for the patient when it comes to psychological restructuring and also help understanding the process of depression and conflict resolution. In the long term, this insight contributes do reducing stress related impact.

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