Depression is different from normal sadness as it interferes with your day-to-day life making it hard for you to work, study, rest and have fun.
People with depression experience five (5) or more of the following symptoms almost every day, for two weeks or longer:
- Persistent sadness or emptiness
- Loss of interest in all or almost all activities
- Decrease or increase in appetite; unintentional weight loss or gain
- Difficulty in sleeping or sleeping excessively
- Restlessness or feeling agitated
- Fatigue and lacking in energy
- Difficulty concentrating or having trouble thinking and making decisions
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
Contributing factors and prevention
Most likely, depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Depression can, in turn, lead to more stress and dysfunction and worsen the affected person’s life situation and depression itself.
There are interrelationships between depression and physical health. For example, cardiovascular disease can lead to depression and vice versa.
Depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. Brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have shown that the brains of people who have depression look different than those of people without depression. The parts of the brain involved in mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behaviour appear different. But these images do not reveal why the depression has occurred. They also cannot be used to diagnose depression.
Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression too. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Some genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes acting together with environmental or other factors. In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.
Prevention programmes have been shown to reduce depression. Effective community approaches to prevent depression include school-based programmes for the prevention of child abuse, or programmes to enhance cognitive, problem-solving and social skills of children and adolescents. Interventions for parents of children with behavioural problems may reduce parental depressive symptoms and improve outcomes for their children. Exercise programmes for the elderly are also effective in depression prevention.