What is Depression

By Last Updated: October 24th, 20234.8 min readViews: 3159

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what is depression
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About the Author: Daryl Stubbs
Daryl Stubbs
Daryl Stubbs is a multi-disciplinary health professional, combining his roles as an award-winning athletic therapist, registered massage therapist, and certified holistic nutritionist to offer a comprehensive approach to wellness. Graduating in 2013, Daryl has been recognized as the best massage therapy clinic in Victoria for 2022 and 2023 and has received national athletic therapy awards. He is known for his holistic approach to health, focusing on treating the body as a whole. Clients appreciate his focus on the science of probiotics, supplements, gut health, and the human body, ensuring a well-informed and evidence-based approach to their wellness journey.

Depression is a mental health disorder that affects how people feel, think, and act. It is a common condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or social status. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 264 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Despite its prevalence, depression remains one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized mental health disorders.

In this article, we will answer the question, “what is depression?” We will explore the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for depression to help you better understand and manage the condition.

“I think the safest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that” – Robin Williams


What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that affects a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. It can cause a persistent feeling of sadness, loss of interest in activities, and other emotional and physical problems. Depression can interfere with a person’s ability to function in their daily life and can lead to serious health complications if left untreated.

Depression is the leading cause of disability around the world.

Depression increased by more than 18% between 2005-2015 and public health experts predict that by the year 2020, depression will rank second in the global burden of disease measured by the number of years lost due to poor health, disability, or early death.

Depression is often referred to as major depressive disorder (MDD) in the research or clinical setting.

Depression is often characterized by profound sadness, fatigue, altered sleep and appetite, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, and a loss of interest in things that once were enjoyable.

Depression is often accompanied by changes in metabolic, hormonal, immune function, and inflammatory responses.

Everyone feels sad or low sometimes, but these feelings typically pass with some time. We know that depression is different. It is an illness that can affect anyone regardless of age, race, income, culture, or education. Research suggests that environment, biology, psychology, and genetics plays a factor in depression. We have talked about the latest science on how to treat depression.


brain types by dr daniel amen and brain md clinic

Symptoms of Depression

Depression can manifest itself in a variety of ways, and the symptoms can vary from person to person.

However, there are some common signs and symptoms of depression that you should be aware of. These include:

  • Persistent sadness or feeling “empty”
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, or chronic pain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide


Causes of Depression

The causes of depression are not fully understood, but it is believed that a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors can contribute to the development of the condition.

Some of the common causes of depression include:

  • Genetics: Depression can run in families, suggesting that there is a genetic component to the condition.
  • Brain chemistry: Changes in the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, can lead to depression.
  • Environmental factors: Stressful life events, such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, financial problems, or a chronic illness, can trigger depression.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as chronic pain, cancer, or thyroid disorders, can increase the risk of depression.
  • Substance abuse: Drug and alcohol abuse can lead to depression, and people with depression may be more likely to use drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms.


Treatment for Depression

Depression is a treatable condition, and there are several effective treatment options available.

The most common treatments for depression include:

  • Therapy: Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help people with depression to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their symptoms.
  • Medication: Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), can help to regulate brain chemistry and reduce depression symptoms.
  • Lifestyle changes: Making healthy lifestyle choices, such as exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding drugs and alcohol, can help to alleviate depression symptoms.


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Depression With Other Diseases

brain types by dr daniel amen and brain md clinic

People with depression are at a greater risk of developing numerous chronic diseases, which include cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic pain cognitive decline, and osteoporosis.

There is a correlation between inflammation and depression, which may be a reason that it occurs with other illnesses linked to inflammation – such as the ones listed.

Part of the increased risk may be from a decrease in telomere length.

Telomeres are basically little caps at the end of your genetic material – sort of like the little covers (called aglets) on your sneaker laces. When the aglet breaks, your shoestring will fray into broken strands.

Similarly, when a telomere breaks, your genetic material can start to fray and be subject to getting damaged, which can lead to mental conditions like depression and anxiety and also physical diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Shorter telomeres are also linked to ageing, and diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Findings from multiple studies demonstrate that people with depression have shorter telomeres, which are associated with increased morbidity and mortality.

Chronic severe depression that is untreated or accompanied by severe physical complaints are associated with an increased risk of suicide.

More than half (56-86%)of people who commit or attempt suicide have depression.

Growing evidence supports the hypothesis that epigenetics is a key mechanism through which environmental exposures interact with an individual’s genetic constitution to determine risk for depression throughout life.

Numerous adverse medical and/or socially significant events are associated with depression, many of which may have a multigenerational effect due to the genetic and epigenetic influences.

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