About Major Depression
Almost twice the number of women suffers from depression as men, but it is believed that the condition is underreported in the male population. Depression can occur once, or it can be a recurring problem that requires lifelong treatment. Experts think that 20 to 20 percent of adults will experience a bout of depression during their lives at some time. Though the exact causes of depression are not known, researchers do know that distinct changes in the brain occur. Genetic factors and environmental factors may both be instrumental in triggering depression. It is a disorder that not only affects mood but also can affect overall health. Feelings of sadness and hopelessness can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. Depression can be either unipolar, with one mood state, or bipolar, with two extreme mood states as in manic depression.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression can exhibit many different symptoms, but a few are characteristic of the disorder. Loss of energy and profound fatigue are one of the prime symptoms of depression. The person may lose interest in normal activities they once enjoyed. Either increased sleeping or insomnia is seen in depressed individuals. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness are common. There may be noticeable weight loss or weight gain in a short period of time. The person may think of death or suicide constantly. Concentration may be affected, and the person may have difficulty making decisions. The individual may complain about various aches and pains though no medical cause is found. In men, depression may be expressed through anger, irritability, substance abuse or other destructive behaviors.
Primary physicians may not always be able to determine that depression is causing the person’s fatigue and inability to function. They may do a battery of tests to rule out physical illness before referring the patient to a psychologist or psychiatrist. The psychologist will determine if the patient has a number of classic symptoms of depression that are recognized by the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual published by the American Psychiatric Association. He will then try to determine the type of depression that is involved, whether it be chronic depression, seasonal depression, postpartum depression or if it also contains manic episodes that are characteristic of manic depression.
A number of antidepressant medications are available to treat the symptoms of depression. These drugs work by altering the availability of neurotransmitter chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine that help to regulate mood. Prozac, Paxil, Celebra, Cymbalta, Elavil, Tofranil, Nardil, Wellbutrin and Desyrel are just a few of the common drugs prescribed to relieve symptoms of major depression. Anti-psychotic medications may be used in addition to antidepressants to boost their effect. Many of these medications have side effects that can cause problems. Those with manic depression may be prescribed lithium carbonate or other drugs. Patients should not stop talking medications without consulting their therapist. A number of types of talk therapy can also be used to help treat depression. These can include interpersonal therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy and individual counseling for specific help to manage symptoms. Severe cases of major depression that do not respond to standard treatments may require electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, before they can feel better.
Prognosis for Depression
Many patients with depression improve as soon as they begin taking antidepressant medications. Other patients require several months of treatment before they begin to feel better. Sometimes, a change in medication or dosages is needed before full relief is experienced. Ongoing talk therapy may be necessary to resolve emotional issues from traumatic events.
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