What is depression?

Throughout the course of our lives, we all experience episodes of unhappiness, sadness, or grief. Often, when a loved one dies or we suffer a personal tragedy or difficulty such as divorce or loss of a job, we may feel depressed (some people call this "the blues"). Most of us are able to cope with these and other types of stressful events.

Over a period of days or weeks, the majority of us are able to return to our normal activities. But when these feelings of sadness and other symptoms make it hard for us to get through the day, and when the symptoms last for more than a couple of weeks, we may have what is called clinical depression. The term "clinical depression" is usually used to distinguish "true" depression from the blues.

Clinical depression is not just grief or sadness. It is an illness that can challenge your ability to perform even routine daily activities. At its worst, depression may lead you to contemplate or commit suicide. Depression represents a burden for both you and your family. Sometimes that burden can seem overwhelming.

Depression Causes

The causes of depression are complex. Genetic, biological, and environmental factors can contribute to its development. In some people, depression can be traced to a single cause, while in others, a number of causes are at play. For many, the causes are never known.

  • Currently,it appears that there are biochemical causes for depression, occurring as a result of abnormalities in the levels of certain chemicals in the brain.
  • These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. The abnormalities are thought to be biological and are not caused by anything you did.
  • While we still don't know exactly how levels of these neurotransmitters affect mood, we do know that the levels can be affected by a number of factors.
  • Heredity: Certain types of depression seem to run in certain families. Research is ongoing as to exactly which genes are involved in depression. Just because someone is your family has depression, however, doesn't mean you will. Sometimes, family members who were known to abuse alcohol or other drugs were unwittingly trying to improve their mood (often called "self-medication" by professionals). Likewise, you can become depressed even if no one else in your family is known to have depression.

  • Personality: People with certain personality traits are more likely to become depressed. These include negative thinking, pessimism, excess worry, low self-esteem, overdependence on others, and ineffective responses to stress.

  • Situations: Difficult life events, loss, change, or persistent stress can cause levels of neurotransmitters to become unbalanced, leading to depression. Even happy events, such as childbirth, can be stressful and cause postpartum depression.

  • Medical conditions: Depression is more likely to occur with certain medical conditions. These "co-occurring" conditions include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, hormonal disorders (especially perimenopause or hypothyroidism, known as "low thyroid"), Parkinson disease, and Alzheimer disease. Clinical depression should not be considered a normal or natural reaction to illness.

  • Medications: Some medications used for long periods, such as prednisone, certain blood pressure medicines, sleeping pills, and even birth control pills in some cases, can cause depression.

  • Substance abuse: While it has long been believed that depression caused people to misuse alcohol and drugs in an attempt to make themselves feel better (self-medication), it is now thought that the reverse can also be the case; substance abuse can actually cause depression.

  • Diet: Deficiencies in certain vitamins, such as folic acid and B-12, may cause depression.

  • Certain people are more likely to develop clinical depression. The following are risk factors for depression in adults:

    • Female sex

    • Advanced age

    • Lower socioeconomic status

    • Recent stressful life experience

    • Chronic (long-term) medical condition

    • Underlying emotional or personality disorder

    • Substance abuse (such as alcohol, sleeping medications, medications for panic or anxiety, or cocaine)

    • Family history of depression, especially in a close relative (such as parent, brother or sister, or child)

    • Lack of social support

Many of these risk factors also apply to children. Other risk factors for depression in children include the following:

  • Continual mental or emotional stress, at home or at school

  • A recent loss

  • Attention, learning, or conduct disorder

  • Obesity

Risk factors for depression in elderly people include those listed for adults. Especially important are the following:

  • Co-occurring illnesses: These become much more important risk factors in the elderly because of the higher incidence of these illnesses in older people. Diseases with which depression is more likely to occur include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, thyroid disease, Parkinson disease, and Alzheimer disease--all diseases that are much more common in elderly people than in other age groups.

  • Medication effects: Like co-occurring illnesses, medication use is much more common in the elderly. Depression is a side effect of some medications in the elderly.

  • Not taking medication for medical conditions: Some medical conditions, if untreated, may cause depression. An example is hypothyroidism (low thyroid).

  • Living alone, social isolation

  • Being recently widowed

Depression Signs and Symptoms

Clinical depression is not something you feel for a day or two before feeling better. In true depression, symptoms last weeks or months, sometimes years if you don't seek treatment. If you are depressed, you are often unable to perform daily activities. You may not care enough to get out of bed or get dressed, much less work, do errands, or socialize.

  • Adults:You may be said to be suffering from a major depressive episode if you have a depressed mood for at least two weeks and have at least five of the following symptoms:

    • Feeling sad or blue

    • Crying spells

    • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities

    • Significant increase or decrease in appetite

    • Significant weight loss or weight gain

    • Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping

    • Agitation or irritability

    • Fatigue or loss of energy

    • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt

    • Thoughts of death or suicide

  • Children:Children with depression also experience these classic symptoms, but may exhibit other symptoms as well, including the following:

    • Poor school performance

    • Persistent boredom

    • Frequent complaints of physical problems such as headaches and stomachaches

    • Some of the classic adult symptoms of depression may also be more obvious in children, such as change in eating or sleeping patterns. (Has the child lost or gained weight in recent weeks or months? Does he or she seem more tired than usual?)

    • Teenagers may show depression by taking more risks and/or showing less concern for their own safety.

  • Parents of children with depression report noticing the following behavior changes. If you notice any of these, discuss this with your health-care provider.

    • The child cries more often or more easily.

    • The child spends more time alone, away from friends and family.

    • The child actually becomes more "clingy" and may become more dependent on certain relationships. This is less common than social withdrawal, though.

    • The child expresses thoughts about hurting him or herself, or exhibits harmful behavior. The child seems to be overly pessimistic or exhibits excessive guilt or worthlessness.

  • Elderly: While any of the classic symptoms of depression may occur in elderly people, other symptoms also may be noted.

    • Diminished ability to think or concentrate

    • Unexplained physical complaints (for example, abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, or muscle aches)

    • Memory impairment (in about 10% with severe depression)

Self-Care at Home

Once you are being treated for depression, you can make lifestyle changes and choices that will help you through the rough times and may prevent depression from returning:

  • Try to identify and focus on activities that make you feel better. It is important to do things for yourself. Don't isolate yourself. Take part in activities even when you may not want to. Such activity may actually make you feel better.

  • Talk with your friends and family and consider joining a support group.Communicating and discussing your feelings is an integral part of your treatment and will help with your recovery.

  • Try to maintain a positive outlook. Having a good attitude can be beneficial.

  • Regular exercise and proper diet are essential to good health. Exercise has been found to increase the levels of the body's own natural antidepressants called endorphins.

  • Try to get enough rest and maintain a regular sleeping pattern.

  • Avoid drinking alcohol or using any illicit substances.

Homoeopathic Treatment

Depression calls for the treatment which should address the emotional stress, the stress coping system . This is what homeopathy attempts doing exactly. The scientific and documented study shows that the homeopathic treatment helps achieve:

  • Soothing of mind

  • Slowing down of negative emotions such as anxiety, sadness, frustration, hyperactivity, anger, restlessness, etc.

  • Helping body's stress coping system

  • Alleviating the abnormal hypersensitivity of the mind

  • Relieving the symptoms of nervousness

  • Enhancing level of joyous state of mind

  • Individualistic approach whereby every patient is treated based on one's case