Understanding Depression Symptoms and Signs
The trickiness with identifying, diagnosing, and – perhaps most importantly – respecting mental illnesses is because there’s no visible or otherwise readily identifiable sign of illness like there is with other ones. Depression is one of the most common and widespread mental health illnesses seen in the world today, and it doesn’t have any easily recognizable symptoms to alert others to the fact that something’s wrong with the person.
It’s only for the sufferer themselves that depression symptoms will be identified, and in large part because usually the signs of depression are so overbearing that they’re hard to ignore.
The first and foremost thing for people suffering from depression to understand is that it happens, and in fact it happens a lot. The US National Institute of Mental Health estimates that approximately 16 million people in America suffer from it, and it’s safe to assume that a similar per-capita percentage of people in Canada also have depression. Long story short, it’s as widespread as can be and some might even say it qualifies as an epidemic.
We’ll discuss what causes depression here today, as well go a little further in defining what is depression exactly. But we’ll begin by saying that most often it’s a result of genetic predisposition paired with situational life triggers the precede the onset of depression symptoms.
Common Signs of Depression Onset
It’s estimated that around 8% of adults will experience major depression at some point in their lives. A smaller number will develop bipolar disorder, and it’s one the most problematic forms of depression (more on it below). As mentioned, depression symptoms can be difficult to identify for individuals who are not those suffering from the disorder. This makes it even more important for people who think they may be starting to experience depression to be very honest with themselves about their increasing depression symptoms. The most common mental signs of depression are:
- Constant feelings of profound sadness, or low self-worth
- Extreme irritability
- Persistent anxiety and obsession over matters you can’t control
- Anger management problems
- Loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed and were enthused about
- Fixation on the past, and in particular with regrets for things gone wrong or bad choices
- In severe cases, thought of suicide
Physical depression symptoms can include:
- Insomnia (difficulty sleeping), or hypersomnia
- Chronic debilitating fatigue
- Chronic debilitating fatigue
- Significant increases or decreases in appetite
- Significant weight gain or weight los
- Difficulty focusing on tasks, maintaining attention, or making decision
- Unexplained aches or pains
Causes of Depression
It’s natural to ask why you feel so ‘down’ all time, and exactly what causes depression. The answer to that question could be an article in itself, so we’ll just cover it briefly. The human brain relies on an optimum balance of four primary neurotransmitters to work in perfect harmony, and those 4 are serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). What causes depression symptoms is when one or two of these 4 neurotransmitters are at chronically low levels.
Low dopamine levels can contribute to some of the secondary depression symptoms, but the primary culprit is serotonin. This is evidenced by the fact that most depression medications are classified as being SSRIs, which stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. They work to ensure you have more serotonin present in your brain, and accordingly your mood and outlook are changed for the better and you have fewer depression symptoms.
It is nearly always the case that people with low serotonin and / or dopamine levels are that way because of a genetic predisposition. This means that depression does indeed run in the family. There are exceptions to that, but if anyone on your mother or father’s side of the family had depression then you’re at greater risk of seeing signs of depression in yourself.
Life situations can compound depression and cause a worsening of your depression symptoms, but they are only a cause of short-term low-level depression that can pass once those life situations change.
Types of Depression
Major Depression Disorder
This is the most common form of severe depression, and the one on which most discussions of depression are based around. It involves all or most of the signs of depression highlighted above and they have been ongoing for 6 months or longer. It is also known as great depression for the fact that it tends to negatively factor into every aspect of a person’s life
Persistent Depressive Disorder
This type of depression is also called dysthymia, and it’s similar to major depression in that it is ongoing and has lasted for some time. However, the difference is that it is low-level depression and as such it’s not nearly as debilitating. And while it is ongoing, it is not constant in the way major depression is. Instead, it’s one where sufferers have recurring episodes of low-level signs of depression.
Bipolar depression is also known as manic-depressive disorder, and for those unaware of how it works it can be one of the most perplexing ones to understand. That’s because it frequently has the person repeatedly swinging between positive, upbeat, and very energized ‘manic’ moods and then episodes of severe depression and hopelessness.
This type of depression is also known by the acronym SAD, which stands for seasonal afflictive disorder. Seasonal depression is most commonly experienced during the early part of the winter months when the hours of natural light in a day are diminished and the sufferer reacts very negatively to being deprived of all the benefits of exposure to it, including lower Vitamin D level intake.
Postpartum depression is another one of the types of depression that are hard to understand for some people. That’s because it involves a new mother feeling depressed after the birth of her child, but it’s important to understand that this is caused by hormonal changes in the body and not any voluntary perception of the mind. The pressure of caring for the newborn and the lack of sleep that often comes with that contribute too.
Effective Depression Medications
Depression symptoms can be mediated or overcome with any of the following medications:
All are prescription medications so you will need to see a physician for a professional evaluation. He or she will then prescribe a medication they feel is right for you based on your specifics and the signs of depression you’re showing most strongly.